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Refraction of light at a boundary
Experimental results
Refractive index
Refractive index of glass
Experiment results
Reversibility of light
Critical angle
Total internal reflection
Absolute refractive index

David Atkinson, Hugh Baird College
Paul Berry, MATTER Project

Introducing the concept of refraction of light when it crosses a boundary separating two transparent media.

Learning outcomes

After completing this section you should be able to:

draw the correct path of a ray of light when it crosses a boundary between two media of different densities;
mark on a diagram the angles of incidence and refraction as well as the normal to the boundary at the point of incidence;
state Snell's Law;
define the absolute refractive index of a material;
state the conditions necessary for total internal reflection to take place;
calculate the critical angle for a given pair of media given their absolute refractive indices.

Assumed prior knowledge

It is assumed that you have knowledge of the following concepts:

the measurement of angles in degrees;
the meaning of the natural sine (sin) of an angle between 0 and 90;
calculation of the gradient of a straight line graph.

Materials Teaching Educational Resources
1999 MATTER Project, The University of Liverpool

ESF flagSupported by the European Social Fund under
the Objective One programme for Merseyside