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# Refraction of Light

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

## sin i v1 • i = angle of incidence

= • r = angle of refraction

## sin r v 2 • v1 = speed of light in the first medium

• 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

## Alternately, we can write Snell’s law as: n1 sin i = n2 sin r

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
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°?

## 2) A beam of light strikes a pane of glass

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.