Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Refractive index experiments

  1. Oct 18, 2006 #1
    This is from my Physics practical experiments.

    The experiment is to find the refractive power of the prism for different colours and also to determine the dispersive power of the material of the prism.

    My question is how does the refractive index of the material of the prism vary with the wavelength of the source light used?

    The answer is the refractive index decreases with the increase in the wavelength of the light.
    I do not want the equation of the relation but the physical significance of the relation.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2006 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    If this is for "practical experiments", then DO IT and find out! Measure the angle of refraction of several different kinds of transparent materials and wavelengths. For a "practical experiment" you shouldn't be trying to find a formula before doing the experiment.
  4. Oct 18, 2006 #3

    Claude Bile

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    You are unlikely to find such an equation anyway because it is dependant on the composition of the glass. So unless you know the composition of the glass exactly (which I very much doubt), the only way to obtain this information is to measure it directly anyway.

  5. Oct 18, 2006 #4
    The answer is the refractive index decreases with the increase in the wavelength of the light.
    I do not want the equation of the relation but the physical significance of the relation.
  6. Oct 19, 2006 #5

    Claude Bile

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    This is a pretty open ended question - I would start with the fact that different wavelengths will travel through the glass at different speeds, which results in material dispersion - different wavelengths separate in time and space when propagating through the glass.

  7. Jul 25, 2008 #6
    You can find dispersion curves (refractive index as a function of wavelength) for many materials on RefractiveIndex.INFO
  8. Jul 30, 2008 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The refractive index is related to the velocity of light in the medium.
    The velocity of light in the medium is related to the interactions of the incoming electric
    field of the radiation ,with the electric fields in the medium.
    The higher the frequency of the radiation , the more radiation/medium electric field interactions, which reduces velocity and equals a higher refractive index.
  9. Jul 30, 2008 #8
    Is that your website? It's great! Very useful :-)
  10. Aug 4, 2008 #9
  11. Aug 4, 2008 #10

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    That is true for normal dispersion: the refractive index decreases as the wavelength increases. Until an resonance peak, that is- then there is anomolous dispersion, where the refractive index *increases* with increasing wavelength. Anomolous dispersion is responsible for those "light moving faster than 'c'" experiments.

    The phenomenon of resonance is the origin of normal dispersion.
  12. Aug 6, 2008 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The following is a more complete explanation:
    At the microscale an electromagnetic wave is slowed in a material because the electric field
    creates a disturbance in the charges of each atom- primarily the electron proportional to the permittivity.
    The oscillation of charges itself causes the radiation of an electromagnetic wave that is slightly out of phase with the original. The sum of the two waves creates a wave of the same frequency but shorter wavelength than the original leading to slowing of the waves travel. (1)
    An electron in an atom or molecule is bound there by strong restoring forces. It has a definite natural frequency. For electrons in atoms it is usually in a region corresponding to violet or U.V. light.
    In mechanical systems it is possible to "drive" the system most effectively if we impress on it an external force whose frequency is as close as possible to that of the natural resonant frequency.
    In the case of light the blue is closer to the natural resonant frequency of the bound electrons than red light. Therefore we would expect the blue light to be more effective in causing the electrons to oscillate. (2)
    ref. :
    1) http://explanation-guide.info
    2)Physics Halliday-Resnick p 1077
  13. Aug 7, 2008 #12
    Another link to a good site I've never seen before. This thread is a gold mine for good sites.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Refractive index experiments
  1. Index of refraction (Replies: 3)

  2. Refractive index (Replies: 4)