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Lesson 3

(3 hours)

Refraction of Light

Word bank

REFRACTION

The bending of an oblique ray of light

when it passes from one transparent

medium to another

Refraction of Light

• When an incident ray

passes through

different media, from

air to glass for

example, the

resulting ray bends air

Why? glass

Because light

changes its speed

upon entering a

different medium

Refraction of Light

• In general, REFRACTION is the change

in the direction of a wave as it crosses

the boundary between two media in which

the wave travels at different speeds

• Light generally slows down upon entering

a denser medium, refracting closer to

the normal line

Refraction of Light

Word bank

• ANGLE OF INCIDENCE Incident ray

the angle between the

incident ray and the

Angle of incidence

normal

• ANGLE OF REFRACTION

the angle between the

Angle of refraction

refracted ray and the

normal

Refracted ray

Normal

CONCEPT CHECK

• Light slows down upon entering a denser

medium. How would you compare the

angle of incidence and the angle of

refraction?

• If light moves instead, from a dense

medium to a less dense medium, what will

be its behavior? How would you compare

the angle of incidence and the angle of

refraction?

Refraction of Light

Word bank

INDEX OF REFRACTION (n)

Ratio of the speed of light in free space

(c) and the speed of light in a particular

medium (v)

c

Given by the equation: n=

v

where c = 3.0 x 108 m/s (constant)

Note: Free space would include vacuum (outer space) and air

EXAMPLE

Light travels at 3.00 x 108 m/s through air.

It slows down to 2.26 x 108 m/s in water.

What is the index of refraction of water?

Given:

c = 3.00 x 108 m/s (speed of light in free space)

v = 2.26 x 108 m/s (speed of light in water)

n=?

SOLUTION

n = c/v

= (3.00 x 108 m/s)/(2.26 x 108 m/s)

= 1.33

Index of refraction has no unit since

the units of c and v (both m/s) will

cancel out

Refraction of Light

Here are some of the indices of refraction of

common materials:

Substance n

Air 1.00

Benzene 1.50

Diamond 2.42

Ethyl Alcohol 1.36

Glass, Crown 1.52

Glass, Flint 1.63

Ice 1.31

Lucite & Plexiglas 1.51

Quartz 1.46

Water 1.33

HOMEWORK

• Determine the speed of light in each of the

materials given in the previous slide.

• What is the relationship between the index

of refraction and the speed of light in the

given material?

• In what material does light travel the

fastest? the slowest?

Refraction of Light

SNELL’S LAW

The ratio of the sines of the angles of

incidence and refraction is equal to the ratio of

the speeds of light in the two media.

The equation was derived by Willebrord Snell

= • r = angle of refraction

• v2 = speed of light in the second medium

EXAMPLE

Light travels at 3.00 x 108 m/s through air. It

slows down to 2.26 x 108 m/s in water. If it

enters the water at an incidence of 30º, what is

the angle of refraction?

Given:

Light travels from air to water so air is the 1st medium

and water the 2nd medium

v1 = 3.00 x 108 m/s v2 = 2.26 x 108 m/s

i = 30º r=?

SOLUTION

sin r = (v2sini)/v1

= (2.26x108 m/s)(sin 30º)/(3.00x108 m/s)

= 0.376666666

to solve for r:

r = sin-1 (0.37666666)

= 22.13º

Refraction of Light

The two previous equations can be combined into a

restatement of Snell’s Law:

c can be expressed in terms of speeds of light in the two media,

n=

v c c

v1 = and v2 =

n1 n2

Plugging in the two equation for v Snell’s law becomes

sin i v1 n2

= =

sin r v 2 n1

Refraction of Light

n1 sin i = n2 sin r

•n1 = index of refraction of the 1st medium

•i = angle of incidence

•n2 = index of refraction of the 2nd medium

•r = angle of refraction

EXAMPLE

A beam of light enters a diamond at an

angle of incidence of 20º. Determine the

angle of refraction of diamond.

Given:

If the 1st medium is not mentioned, we can always assume that it’s

air. Checking the table for the index of refraction of air and diamond,

we have

n1 = 1.00 i = 20º

n2 = 2.42 r=?

SOLUTION

sinr = (n1sini)/n2

= (1.00 sin 20º)/(2.42)

= 0.141330637

to solve for r

r = sin-1(0.141330637)

= 8.12º

YOUR TURN

A flashlight is frozen into a block of ice. If

its beam strikes the surface of the ice at

an angle of incidence of 37°, what is the

angle of refraction? r=?

air

ice i = 37°

ANSWER: r = 52°

HOMEWORK

1) What is the angle of refraction of a

beam of light that enters the surface of a

lake at an angle of incidence of 50°?

at an angle of incidence of 60°. If the

angle of refraction is 35°, what is the

index of refraction of the glass?

Refraction of Light

REFRACTION IN NATURE

• During a hot day, we see distorted images

in the horizon. This warping of images is

called ATMOSPHERIC REFRACTION

and is caused when light crosses a region

of hot air. The distorted image is called a

MIRAGE.

Refraction of Light

REFRACTION IN NATURE

• When allowed to pass through a prism,

white light splits into its component colors.

This process is called DISPERSION. A

rainbow is a natural dispersion of light in

the sky.

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