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Group Index dependence on refractive index

  1. Oct 23, 2014 #1
    In Ng (the group index for a range of wavelengths), there is an index of refraction n used, but if the medium is dispersive, meaning n is a function of wavelength λ, which n is used? Is it some kind of an average? Or does n not change much over this range of wavelengths? if it doesn't change much, then

    Ng = n - λ(dn/dλ)

    would be approximately

    Ng ~ n

    So, it makes sense to me that dn/dλ must not be really small, because otherwise Ng ~ n and the concept of group index is redundant with the concept of the index of refraction. but if dn/dλ is not really small, then the choice of n (the first term in Ng) becomes crucial, does it not?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2014 #2


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    ##N_g## is a function of ##\lambda## too: ##N_g(\lambda)##, so you should use the respective value ##n(\lambda)## in the formulas you gave.
    Take in mind that the group index refers to a wavepacket which is very broad, so that the spread of ##\lambda## in Fourier space is arbitrary small. If n depends strongly on ##\lambda##, the wavepacket will deform while travelling through the medium and it will be difficult to define a group velocity, or, you have to regard it as a superposition of broader wavepackets which travel with slightly different group velocities.
  4. Oct 24, 2014 #3
    Thanks! Makes total sense!
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