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Why Refractive Index Varies with Wavelength of Light

  1. Aug 29, 2008 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    We learn from school that when we shine white light through a prism, dispersion occurs. This is because the light of varying wavelengths are refracted to a different extent due to how refractive index varies with the wavelength of light. So why does refractive index vary with wavelength?

    2. Relevant equations

    E = hf?

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Light of varying wavelengths have different amounts of energy. As such it is logical that they would travel at different speeds in a particular medium and be refracted to a different extent. However, it is not a very technical explanation and isn't entirely coherent. I read something about it in a textbook. However, I didn't quite understand ti. Is there any simple explanation for this phenomena?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2008 #2
    There's a brief chapter in Eugene Hecht book "Optics" wich explain it. I hope it might help.

    Best regards
  4. Aug 30, 2008 #3
    because atoms respond differently to different frequencies.
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