Rank the material according to their indices of refraction

In summary, the conversation discussed the ranking of materials based on their indices of refraction, given a figure with light traveling through various layers of materials. The laws of refraction were used to set boundaries and the angles of the rays were compared to determine the relationships between the indices of refraction. The final answer was determined to be Nd > Nb > Na > Nc.
  • #1
MrMoose
23
0

Homework Statement



In the figure below (see image in color), light travels from material 'a', through three layers of other materials with surfaces parallel to one another, and then back into another layer of material 'a'. The refractions (but not the associated reflections) at the surfaces are shown. Rank the materials according to their indices of refraction, greatest first.


Homework Equations



Laws of Refraction:

1. If the ray is bent so that it sits between the normal and incident beam, N2>N1
2. If the ray is bent so that it sits outside the normal and incident beam, N1>N2

The Attempt at a Solution



See image in black & white. Using the relevant equations, I was able to set the following boundaries:

Nb>Na
Nc<Nb
Nd>Nc
Na<Nd

The problem is that I still don't have enough information to order the indices of refraction. For example, the following could be true:

Nd > Nb > Nc > Na

But I really don't have any evidence that supports Na > Nc or that Nd > Nb.

The correct answer is: Nd > Nb > Na > Nc

Am I supposed to estimate the angles and draw the rest of the boundaries from that?

Thanks in advance, MrMoose
 

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  • #2
To compare any two regions, all you need do is compare the angles of those rays. Eyeball it.
 
  • #3
Thanks Doc Al, I figured it was just an eyeball thing, so let me see if I see it... so to speak.

Given my original original boundary conditions, my only questions were on the relationship between Na and Nc, and Nd and Nb.

Right off the bat, I can see that θd < θb

Given the general equation: n2 * sin(θ2) = n1 * sin(θ1), I know the following:

If θ2<θ1, it follows that N2<N1, therefore

Nd >Nb

Making the judgement call on θa and θc is not quite so obvious though. I had to pull out my protractor. In the end, I did find that θa < θc. Therefore, it follows that:

Na > Nc

And the final answer is:

Nd > Nb > Na >Nc
 
  • #4
Looks good to me! :thumbs:
 
  • #5


Yes, in order to accurately rank the materials according to their indices of refraction, you will need to use the laws of refraction and estimate the angles at which the light is being bent. This will allow you to determine the relationship between the indices of refraction of each material. From the given information, it is clear that Nd must have the greatest index of refraction since it is bending the light the most (sitting outside the normal and incident beam). From there, you can use the other boundaries you have set to determine the relationships between the other materials. It is also helpful to keep in mind that the index of refraction is directly related to the speed of light in a material, so the material with the highest index of refraction will have the slowest speed of light.
 

1. What is the index of refraction for a material?

The index of refraction for a material is a measure of how much the speed of light is reduced when traveling through that material. It is represented by the symbol "n" and is typically greater than 1.

2. How is the index of refraction of a material determined?

The index of refraction of a material can be determined by measuring the angle of refraction as a beam of light passes through the material and comparing it to the angle of incidence. This is known as Snell's law and can be calculated using the formula n = sin(i) / sin(r), where i is the angle of incidence and r is the angle of refraction.

3. What is the relationship between the index of refraction and the speed of light?

As the index of refraction of a material increases, the speed of light traveling through that material decreases. This is because the light is interacting with the atoms and molecules of the material, causing it to slow down.

4. How does the index of refraction affect the bending of light?

The index of refraction plays a crucial role in the bending of light. When light passes through a material with a higher index of refraction, it will bend more towards the normal line (an imaginary line perpendicular to the surface of the material) compared to when it passes through a material with a lower index of refraction.

5. What are some common materials and their corresponding indices of refraction?

The index of refraction varies for different materials, but some commonly used materials and their indices of refraction include air (n = 1.0003), water (n = 1.333), glass (n = 1.5), and diamond (n = 2.417). The index of refraction can also differ for different wavelengths of light, which is why we see rainbows when light passes through a prism.

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