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# Observation of the Refraction of Light using an Optical Disk

Juvinch R. Vicente
University of the Philippines Visayas
Miagao,Iloilo, Philippines
vinx_oxide@yahoo.com

Abstract 2.Theory
The aim of this experiment is to determine the
Index of Refraction n of the refracting medium, and
the identity of the material using its n.

From the data and results gathered, the best fit line
of the plotted values of sine of angle of refraction (θr)
versus the sine of angle of incidence (θi) was
approximated using a trend line. From the equation
obtained, the slope of the sine θr versus sine θi plot
was determined which is consequently equal to the Figure 1. Refraction of a light ray from air with
ratio between n of the two medium. index of refraction of n1 and angle of incidence of θ1
to glass with index of refraction of n2 and angle of
The value of n obtained was 1.471. Base from the incidence of θ2 with respect to normal line (dashed
standard list of Index of Refraction of common line).
materials, the material having n closest to our
calculated value is Pyrex glass having n equal to Measurement of the angle of refraction of light was
1.474 which has a deviation of 0.20%. done by letting a single light ray pass through a
refracting medium, semi cylindrical glass plate. For
1.Introduction more data points, different angles of refraction were
measured by varying the angles of incidence.
Refraction is the bending of a wave when it enters
a medium where its speed is different. The refraction Figure 1 shows the refraction of the single light ray
of light when it passes from a fast medium to a slow from air to a denser medium (in this case glass). The
medium bends the light ray toward the normal to the figure illustrates that when light travels from medium
boundary between the two media1. of lower density to higher density, θ2 < θ1, and vice
versa.
The amount of bending depends on the indices of
refraction of the two media and is described Refraction is the bending of a wave when it enters
quantitatively by Law of refraction (Snell's Law). a medium from different medium. The refraction of
light when it passes from a fast medium to a slow
Refraction is the reason that prisms separate white medium bends the light ray toward the normal to the
light into its constituent colors. This occurs because boundary between the two media. The bending of the
different colors (i.e., frequencies) of light travel at light ray is due to the change in speed of light. This
different speeds in the prism, resulting in a different phenomenon is governed by Snell’s Law.
amount of deflection of the wavefront for different
colors. Snell's law gives the relationship between angles of
incidence and refraction for a wave impinging on an
In this experiment, the index of refraction of the interface between two media with different indices of
glass plate used was determined by plotting the linear refraction. The law follows from the boundary
relationship of the sines of the angle of incidence condition that a wave continuous across a boundary,
versus sines of the angle of refraction, and solving it which requires that the phase of the wave be constant
from the slope of the best fit line. on any given plane.
of incidence, the refracted light travels in a straight
line along the 0-0 axis.

## The disk was then turned to vary the angle of

incident ray that strikes the glass plate. The value of
the corresponding angle of refraction for each angle
of incidence were then measured and recorded at
Table 1.

## The sines of the θi and θr were then taken and

Figure 2. the bottom part of the ray reaches the slow plotted using MS excel. The plot is between sines of
medium first, and is slowed down first, rotating the θr versus sines of θi. Using trend line, the best fit line
ray towards the normal line. was then drawn and its equation was also obtained
using the same software. The slope of the best fit line
As the speed of light is reduced in the slower is equal to the ratio between n of air to n of the glass
medium, the wavelength is shortened proportionately. plate. So given the n of air, we were able to calculate
The frequency is unchanged; it is a characteristic of the n of the glass plate.
the source of the light and unaffected by medium
changes1.
4. Results and Discussions
The intensity of bending depends on the indices of
refraction of the two media and is described Table 1 shows the measured angle of refraction
quantitatively by Snell's Law2. with its corresponding angle of incidence. As we can
see, the value of the θr is always less than θi, which is
n1sin1 = n1sin1 (1) expected because our refracting medium is denser
than the other medium which is air.
The index of refraction is defined as the speed of
light in vacuum divided by the speed of light in the Table 1. Value of the θr and θi.
medium. This means that the greater the value of n,
the slower the light will travel in that medium, Angle of Angle of
similarly the lesser the value of n, the faster the light Incidence, θi º Refraction, θr º
will travel. 0.0 0.0
5.0 3.5
10.0 7.0
3.Methodology 15.0 10.5
20.0 13.5
25.0 17.0
30.0 20.0
Figure 3. Schematic Diagram of the set-up, the glass 35.0 23.0
plate is clipped on the optical disk its flat edge is 40.0 26.0
parallel to the 90-90 axis. Light source is 45.0 29.0
perpendicular to the flat surface of the glass plate.
Figure 4. Plot of sine θi vs sine θr with approximated
In this experiment, the index of refraction of the trend line and equation.
glass plate used was determined by plotting the linear
relationship of the sines of the angle of incidence Figure 4 shows the plot of sine θr vs sine θi with its
versus sines of the angle of refraction, and solving it best fit line and equation. The plot was approximated
from the slope of the best fit line. by fitting a linear trend line using MS excel. From the
equation of the best fit line, we have obtained the
The semi cylindrical glass plate was attached to the slope which is equal to 0.680.
disk so that the straight edge coincides with the 90-90
axis (see Figure 3). The light source was then turned Since the best fit line approximates the linear
on. The screen was then adjusted such that a single relationship between sine θr vs sine θi, it means that
light ray emerges and passes along the 0-0 axis of the its slope gives the ratio between sine θr vs sine θi.
disk striking the straight edge of the semi cylindrical Thus by rearranging Eq.1 of Snell’s law, slope of the
glass plate perpendicularly. Necessary adjustments line also equals to the ratio between n of air to n of
were done to ensure that the refracted light at 0º angle glass. Given n of air to be equal to 1.000 we have
calculated the value for the index of refraction of the
glass plate. Acknowledgement
The value obtained for the index of refraction of This experiment would have not been a success
the glass plate is 1.471. Based from the standard list without the full effort of my group mates Gabrielle
of indices of refraction of common materials 2, the Troy Cuevas and Kristine Joy Sumanga. Also, my
closest n value to our calculated value is 1.474 which deepest appreciation to our lab instructor Mr. Elmer
belongs to Pyrex Glass. The experimental value is Arapoc, for patiently helping us in understanding the
lower by 0.20% from the theoretical value. concept of our activity.

5. Conclusions References

## The value of the calculated value of the index of 1. http://hyperphysics.phy-

refraction of the glass plate was 1.471. This astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geoopt/refr.html#c2
experimental value deviated by 0.20% from the
suspected theoretical value which is 1.474. The 2.http://www.robinwood.com/Catalog/Technical/Ge
theoretical value belongs to Pyrex Glass. n3DTuts/Gen3DPages/RefractionIndexList.html

## The plot of sine θr vs sine θi was approximated by 3. http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/SnellsLa

a linear trend line. The slope was then obtained from w.html
its equation, which enabled the calculation of the
index of refraction of the glass plate used.