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Refraction of light

Refraction is the bending of a wave when it enters a medium where it's speed is different. The refraction of light when it passes from a fast medium to a slow medium bends the light ray toward the normal to the boundary between the two media. The amount of bending depends on the indices of refraction of the two media and is described quantitatively by Snell's Law


Snell's Law

Key Concepts

Refraction is the bending of light that takes place at a boundary between two materials having different indices of refraction. Refraction is due to a change in the speed of light as it passes from one medium to another

  • Laws of Refraction:
    • The ratio of sines of the angles of incidence and refraction is a constant. (Snell's Law) (The ratio is constant for a particular wavelength and a particular set of materials.)
    • The incident and refracted rays are on opposite sides of the normal at the point of incidence.
    • The incident ray, the normal, and the refracted ray are coplanar.

Light ray in Transparent Medium

As light passes from one transparent medium to another, it changes speed, and bends. How much this happens depends on the refractive index of the mediums and the angle between the light ray and the line perpendicular (normal) to the surface separating the two mediums (medium/medium interface) Each medium has a different refractive index .The angle between the light ray and the normal as it leaves a medium is called the angle of incidence. The angle between the light ray and the normal as it enters a medium is called the angle of refraction.

Angle of incidenceThe angle between an incident ray and the normal to a reflecting or refracting surface.

The angle which a refracted ray makes with the perpendicular to the surface separating the two media traversed by the ray.

The Angle of Refraction


The law of reflection

Objects can be seen by the light they emit, or, more often, by the light they reflect. Reflected light obeys the law of reflection, that the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.