Sei sulla pagina 1di 21

Nature of light

Light has dual nature. It has particle nature and can show wave nature as well.
In this chapter we will study the wave nature of light.
Wave evidence of the light:
Light and radio signals all undergo reflection, refraction, and diffraction. This
suggests that they travell as waves. For example:
1- Light reflects from mirrors like sound waves reflect from hard surfaces.
2- Light bends when it passes from air in to glass or water.
3- Light also exhibits the phenomenon of diffraction like sound waves.
4- Light spreads when it passes through tiny holes and slits. This suggests that
light waves must have much shorter wavelength then sound.
5- Some radio signals can bend round very large obstacles such as hills. This
suggests that radio waves must have long wavelengths.
Important features of light
Some important features of light are as under:
1- Light is a form of radiation.
2- Light travels in straight lines.
3- Light transfers energy.
4- Light travels as waves.
5- Light can travel through empty space.
6- Light is the fastest thing there is.
7- Light has visible and invisible region.
Reflection of light
When the ray of light strikes a mirror, it reflects as shown in the figure below.

The incoming ray is the incident ray, while the outgoing ray is called
reflected ray, and the line at right angle to the mirror surface at the point of
incidence is called a normal. The mirror in this case is a plane mirror. It means
that it is a flat mirror, raher than a curved mirror.
Law of reflection:
There are two laws of reflection. They apply to all types of mirrors.
1- The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection.
i (Angle of incidence)= r (Angle of reflection)
2- The incident ray, the reflected ray and the normal all lie in the same plane.
Image through a plane mirror is a result of reflection of light.
Use of mirror (Periscope)
In a plane mirror the image is always the same size as the object.
Examples of plane mirrors include household 'dressing' mirrors, dental mirrors
for examining teeth, security mirrors for checking under vehicles and


A periscope uses reflection to allow you to see above your normal line of
vision - or even round corners.
Refraction of light
When light ray enters from one medium to the other medium, it changes its
direction in the second medium depending upon the angle of incidence because
of the change in speed.
When the light ray enters from denser medium to the rare medium, it bends
away from the normal. Its speed and wavelength increases but frequency
remains same. Direction of refracted wave depends upon the direction of
incident wave.

When light ray enters from rare medium to the denser medium, it bends
towards the normal. Its speed and wavelength decreases but frequency remains

Direction of refracted ray of light depends upon the direction of incident ray of
Law of refraction:

When light ray refracts, it obeys the law of refraction which is as under.
1-Sine of Angle of incidence is directly proportional to the Sine of Angle of
2- Incident ray, refracted ray and normal all they lie in the same plane.
Important to note:
1- Angle of incidence is the angle between incident ray and the normal to the
boundry of the first medium
2- Angle of refraction is the angle between the refracted ray and the normal to
the boundry of the second medium, in which light ray enters
3- In refraction phenomenon, direction, wavelength and the speed change but
frequency remains same.
4- In refraction phenomenon, if angle of incidence is zero (means ray is
coming along the normal) then angle of refraction will also be zero and the
wave goes straight in the second medium without bending, but speed and
wavelength changes depending upon the nature of the second medium in which
it is entering.
5- In this syllabus we study three media, glass, water and air. Glass is most
dense medium, then water and water which is denser than air. In water we
study two regions shallow and deeper, deeper is the rare medium as compare to
the shallow region.
6- Ratio of Sin i to the Sin r is always constant for a particular medium, which
is called the refractive index.
Refractive index
The refractive index of a material indicates how strongly the material changes
the direction of the light. It is calculated using the formula
Refractive index = Sin i / Sin r
i = angle of incidence
r = angle of refraction

Refractive index












The refractive index can also be determined by using the following relation
Refractive index = 1 / Sin C
Where C is the critical angle.
We can also use the following equation to determine the refractive index
Refractive index = c / v
c = speed of light in vacuum
v = Speed of light in the material
Critical angle
It is the angle of incidence in the denser medium for which angle of refraction
in the rare medium is 90o.

Critical angle and the refractive index are related by the relation
Refractive index (n) = 1 / Sin C
Sin C = 1 / Refractive index (n)
Total internal reflection
When ray of light enters from denser medium to the denser medium they move
away from the normal.
As the angle of incidence increases, an angle is reached at which the light rays
will have to leave with an angle of refraction greater than 90o. These rays
cannot refract, so they are entirely reflected back inside the medium. This
process is known as total internal reflection.

In other words we can say that if angle of incidence is greater than the critical
angle, total internal reflection takes place.
Use of prism (Periscope)
Total internal reflection is used in fiber optic cables. A fiber optic cable is made
of a bundle of very thin glass fibers. The light continues along the fiber by
being constantly internally reflected.

Telephone and T.V. communications systems are increasingly relying on fibre

optics istead of the more traditional copper cables. fibre optic cables do not use
electricity and the signals are carried by infrared rays. The signals are very
clear as they do not suffer from electrical interference. Other advantages are
that they are cheaper than the copper cables and can carry thousands of
different signals down the same fibre at the same time.
Bundles of several thousands opticle fibres are use in medical endoscope for
internal examination of the body. The bundle will carry an image from one end
of the bundle to the other, each fibre carrying one tiny part (one pixel) of the
Convex lens
A Convex lens is used in many optical instruments like microscope, telescope,
camera, etc. A convex lens is the thickest in the centre and is also called a
converging lens because it bends the light inward.
Pricipal axis: A spherical surface has a centre of curvature, which is the centre
of the sphere from which it is drawn. A convex lens has two centres of
curvature. A line passing through the centers of curvature and the opticle centre
is called the principal axis.

Opticle centre: There is a paricular point 'C' (at the centre of the lens) in a lens
called its opticle centre such that any ray passing through this point does not
suffer any change in its direction. Opticle centre 'C' of a lens always lies on the
principal axis.
Principal focus: The point where all the rays parallel to the principal axis meet
after passing through a convex lens is called the principal focus 'F'.
Focal length: It is the distance 'f' between the optical centre 'C' and the
principal focus 'F'.
Behavior of standard rays after passing through convex lens
Information about the images formed by a lens can be obtained by drawing any
of two of the following standard rays from the top of the object.
Standard rays:

If a ray of light is coming parallal to the principal axis, after refracting

through the convex lens it passes through the focus point or principal

If ray of light is passing through the optical centre, after refracting

through the convex lens, it goes straight wihout bending or devitaing.

If a ray of ligh is coming from the focus point or principal focus, after
refracting through convex lens, it becomes parallel to the principal axis.

Image formed by convex lens

In each ray diagram, in the figure below two rays are drawn from the top of the
(a) When an oject is placed in front of a convex lens at distance greater than 2f,
its image will be formed between F and 2F, as shown in the figure below. The
image will be diminished real and inverted.

(b) When an object is placed at 2F in front of a convex lensThe image will be

formed at 2F as shown in he figure below. The image will be of the same size,
real but inverted.

(c) When object is placed in front of a convex lens between between F and 2F.
The image will be formed at a distnce beyond 2F from the lens as shown in the
figure below. The image will be magnified, real and inverted.

(d) When object is at F in front of the lens, its image will be at infinity, much
enlarged, real and inverted as shown in the figure below.

(e) When the object is placed between the lens and its pricipal focus. Then the
image will be formed on the same side behind the object. The image will be
magnified, errect and virtual as shown in the figure below.

Nature and position of image produced by convex lens



At infinity

At F

Real, Inverted


Beyond 2F

Between F and 2F

Real, Inverted


At 2F

At 2F

Real, Inverted

Same size

Between F and 2F

Beyond 2F

Real, Inverted


At F

At infinity

Real, Inverted


Between lens and F

Behind the object

Virtual, erect


Note: F' is the principal focus on the object side and F is the principal focus on
the other sde of the lens opposite to the object.
Principle of camera
A simple lens camera consistes of a light proof box fitted with a convex lens at
one end as shown in the figure below.

The lens is adjusted to get a real and sharp image on the photographic film.
The amount of light is controlled by an adjustable aperture and shutter. when

the button is pressed, then the shutter opens for short interval. Image of the
object before the camera is formed on the photographic film. the exposed film
is then developed to make the image visible. Most of the modern cameras uses
a system of lenses nstead of a single lens. This improves the quality of teh
image taken by such cameras. The quality of the image taken by such camera
depends upon the following factors.

The quality of the lens or lens system

Proper focusing of the camera

proper illumination of the object or scene to the photograph

Proper adjustment of the aperture size and shutter speed

Dispersion of light
Light coming from the sun or electric bulb is called white light. If this light is
allowed to fall on a prism it spits up into its constituent colours. Hence
"splitting up of white light ito its constituent colours is called dispersion of
Electromagnetic spectrum

Newton's experiment for dispersion of light

In order to observe spectrum of light Newton performed an experiment by
making a small circular hole in one of the window of his room. When sunlight
enetered in the room through this hole, aspot of white light was formed on the
opposite wall. He intruduced a prism in the pah of narrow beam of white light
as shown in the figure below. Light after passing through the prism formed a
pattern of seven colors on the wall.

Newton explained the spectrum by the theory that white light consists of a
mixture of light of seven colors. The refractive index of glass is different for

light of each colour. So that white light falls on the prism each colour in it is
refracted at a different angle so the colours are spread out to form a spectrum.

-----------------------------Improvement in Newton's experiment for dispersion of light

The spectrum formed in Newton's first experiment was not pure. The spectrum
obtained consisted of series of circular coloured images ovelaping on each
other. Later on Newton deviced the arrangement as shown in the figure below.

A converging lens 'L' is placed so as to form n image 'I' , of a narrow slit 'S'
which is illiminated by a bulb of white light. A prism is placed between the
screen and the lens 'L'. When light passe through teh prism, dispersion is
produced and a pure spectrum is seen on a screen. This consists of series of
coloured images of the slit, all very close to each other. If slit is made narrow,
overlaping is reduced and the resulting spectrum will be more pure. The
spectrum will be more clrear, if the position of the prism is set for the
minimum deviation.

-----------------------------Recombination of colors
The colours of the spectrum may be recombined to form white light by
allowing spectrum to be formed on a row of small rectangular plane mirror as
shown in the figure below.

A screen 'W' is adjusted at such an angle that all these mirrors reflect the light
on the screen at the same point. The rersult is, a spot of white light is formed
on the screen.
Newton also performed an experiment regarding the recombination of
components colours. He pianted the colours of the spectrum in sectors on a

disc as shown in the figure below.

When it is rotated with high speed, the disc appears white. This happens
because of the persistence of vision. the impression of an image on the retina
of an eye is retained for a fraction of a second after the image has disappeared.
Consequently the brain sums up and mixes together the rapidly changing
coloured images of the disc. thus the sensation of the stationary white image is

The rainbow is a natural phenomenon sometimes seen after a rain. In the
seventeenth century a French mathematician Rene Descartes gave the idea that
rainbow is produced by the dispersin of light. According the Rene, after the
rain showers, a number of droplets of water remain suspended high up in the
air. When sun light falls on theses water droplets, it gets splitted, as each drop
acts like a prism. So each ray of light after passing through the drop suffers
refaction and total internal reflection. The violet colour is refractetd the most
and the red colour, at least. Thus the red ray which emerges from each droplet
makes greater angle with the horizontal than the violet ray. Simiillarly other
coloured rays emerge at different angles to the horizontal. The droplets which
are at the same angle from the observer will produce the same colour.
Consequently an area of coloured bands called the rainbow appear in teh sky
opposite to the sun as shown in the figure below.

The colour in the rainbow are distributed in such a way that violet lies on the
inside of the bow, while the red light outside of the bow.

-----------------------------Invisible components of electromagnetic spectrum






Photographic Very
Treatment of cancer;
plate; GMpenetrating; Gamma rays (image
tube; Cloud Very
inside the body); finds



X-ray tubes

Sun; sparks
and arcs;
lamps; UV


flaws in metals;
sterilises bandages,
prolongs shelf-life of
food (e.g. ice-cream)

Treatment of skin
Photographic Very
disorders; X-ray
penetrating; radiography; study of
Fluorescent Very
crystal structures;
dangerous inspections of welds
in steel joints or pipes
Photo film;
Photo cells;

Absorbed by
glass; Causes Detect forgeries of
damages and Fluorescent tubes;
kills living Sterilisation; Sunbeds

-----------------Visible region----------------Radiators (Keeps

occupants of room
Special photo
warm in winter);
Sun; Warm
film; LDR
Cooking food;
Infra-red and hot onjects (Light
Finding burried warm
heating when
(I.R.) light (fires or
bodies; IR satellite
photos reveal diseased
crops; Televesion
controllers; Intruder
communicatio receiving
n dish



Absorbed by
water and
fats in food
and people,
hence is

communication links
(Radio and
Microwave cooking,
Radar communication

Radio; TV and
Metal aerials; alternating
satellite communiTuned circuits currents in
metal aerials



Reflection through plane mirror


-----------------------------Image through plane mirror