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In optics, a prism is a transparent optical

element with flat, polished surfaces that refracts
light. The exact angles between the surfaces
depend on the application. The traditional
geometrical shape is that of a triangular prism with
a triangular base and rectangular sides, and in
colloquial use “prism” usually refers to this type.
Some types of optical prism are not in fact in the
shape of geometric prisms. Prisms can be made
from any material that is transparent to the
wavelengths for which they are designed. Typical
materials include glass, plastic and fluorite. Prism
can be used to break light up into its constituent
spectral colors (the colors of the rainbow). Prisms
can also be used to reflect light, or to split light into
components with different polarizations.
Before Isaac Newton, it was believed that
white light was colorless, and that the prism itself
produced the color. Newton’s experiments
demonstrated that all the colors already existed in
the light in a heterogeneous fashion, and that
“corpuscles” (particles) of light were fanned out
because particles with different colors traveled
with different speeds through the prism. It was only
later that Young and Fresnel combined Newton’s
particle theory with Huygens’ wave theory to show
that color is the visible manifestation of light’s
wavelength. Newton arrived at his conclusion by
passing the red color from one prism through
second prism and found the color unchanged. From
this, he concluded that the colors must already be
present in the incoming light and white light
consists of a collection of colors. As the white light
passes through the triangular prism, the light
separates into the collection of colors: red, orange,
yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. This
collection of colors formed by the prism is called
the spectrum. The separation of white light into its
spectrum is known as dispersion.
Dispersion occurs because each color travels
through the prism at different speeds. Violet travels
the slowest through the prism; hence we can see it
refracting the most. On the other hand, red passes
through at a much fast rate which makes its angle
of refraction less, hence red is too scarce to be
AIM: To investigate the dependence, of the angle
of deviation on the angle of incidence, using a
hallow prism filled, one by one, with different
transparent fluids.

Drawing board, white sheets of paper, hollow
prism, different liquids (water, kerosene oil, etc),
drawing pins, pencil, half meter scale, thump pins,
graph papers and a protractor.

Refraction of Light through a Prism –
Diagram shows section ABC of a prism taken by a
vertical plane, perpendicular to the edge. BC is the
base of the prism and AB and AC are its two
refracting surfaces.

DIAGRAM: Refraction through a prism.

RQ is the incident ray.

QS is the refracted ray.
ST is the emergent ray.
RQN1 = i = angle of incidence
SQN3 = r1 = angle of refraction inside prism
QSN3 = r2 = angle of incidence inside prism
TSN2 = e = angle of emergence
BAC = A = angle of prism
SFK = D = angle of deviation
D = (i – r1) + (e – r2)
D = i + e – (r1 + r2)
… (1)
In QS1N3, r1 + r2 + QN3S = 180⁰
… (2)
The quadrilateral AQN3S is cyclic quadrilateral, then
A + QN3S = 180
… (3)
From (2) and (3)
A = r 1 + r2
… (4) Eq. (1) become
D + A = i +e
… (5)
Angle of Minimum Deviation -
Definition: The minimum value of angle of
deviation is called angle of minimum deviation.
It is represented by the symbol Dm.
Explanation: For same angle of deviation (D)
there are two values of angle of incidence. One
value equals ‘i’ and other value equals ‘e’.
As angle ‘i’ is increased from a small value, ‘e’
decreases from large value and angle of
deviation decreases. When angle of deviation
is minimum (Dm), then, ‘i’ and ‘e’ becomes
The refracted ray QS goes parallel to base BC.
sin i sin e
∵ n=
Since i = e, we have r1 = r2. ( sin r1 = sin r 2 )

Hence, at minimum deviation, when r1 = r2 =

r (say).
We have A = r1 + r2 = r + r = 2r

r= 2

Also, at minimum deviation, D = Dm and i =

From relation, A + D = i +e
We have, A + Dm = i + i = 2i
A+ Dm

i= 2

From Snell’s law,

sin i
n= sin r

A + Dm
We have n= sin

This relation is useful for determination of n for

Prism material.

DIAGRAM: Refraction through prism at

different angles

1.A white sheet of paper was fixed on the
drawing board with the help of drawing pins.
2. A straight line XX’ parallel to the length of the
paper was drawn nearly in the middle of the
3. Points Q1,Q2,Q3 and Q4 were marked on the
straight line XX’ at suitable distances of about
4. Normal’s N1Q1,N2Q2,N3Q3 and N4Q4 were drawn
on points Q1,Q2,Q3 and Q4.
5. Straight lines R1Q1,R2Q2,R3Q3 and R4Q4 were
drawn making angles of 40⁰,45⁰,50⁰ and 55⁰
respectively with the normals.
6. One corner of the prism was marked as A and it
was taken as the edge of the prism for all the
7. Prism with its refracting face AB was put in the
line XX’ and point Q1 was put in the middle of
8. The boundary of the prism was marked.
9.Two pins P1 and P2 were fixed vertically on the
line R1Q1 and the distance between the pins
were about 2cm.
10. The images of points P1 and P2 were looked
through face AC.
11. Left eye was closed and right eye was
opened and was brought in line with the two
12. Two pins P3 and P4 were fixed vertically at
about 2cm apart such that the open right eye
sees pins P4 and P3 as images of P2 and P1 in
one straight line.
13. Pins P1,P2,P3 and P4 were removed and their
pricks on the paper were encircled.
14. Steps 7 to 13 were again repeated with
points Q2,Q3 and Q4 for i=45⁰,50⁰ and 55⁰.
15. Straight lines through points P4 and P3 were
drawn to obtain emergent rays S1T1, S2T2, S3T3
and S4T4.
16. T1S1,T2S2 ,T3S3 and T4S4 were produced inward
in the boundary of the prism to meet produced
incident rays R1Q1, R2Q2,R3Q3 and R4Q4 at points
F1,F2,F3 and F4.
17. Angles K1F1S1,K2F2S2,K3F3S3 and K4F4S4 were
measured. These angles give angle of
deviation D1, D2,D3 and D4.
18. Values of these angles were written on the
19. Angle BAC was measured in the boundary of
the prism. This gives angle A.
20. Observations were recorded.


Angle of hollow prism A = 60⁰

S.No. Angle Angle of Angle Angle of
of deviatio of deviatio
incidenc n for deviatio n for
e water n for turpenti
kerosen ne oil
e oil
1 40⁰ 23⁰ 36⁰ 32⁰
2 45⁰ 24⁰ 33⁰ 33⁰
3 50⁰ 25⁰ 34⁰ 34⁰
4 55⁰ 26⁰ 35⁰ 35⁰
The angle of minimum deviation for –
Water Dm = 23⁰C
Kerosene oil Dm = 33⁰C
Turpentine oil Dm = 32⁰C

The refractive indices of the-

Water n = 1.32
Kerosene oil n = 1.46
Turpentine oil n = 1.44

Speed of light in-

Water v = 2.3x108 m/s

Kerosene oil v = 2.05x108 m/s
Turpentine oil v = 2.08x108 m/s

 The angle of incidence should lie between
35⁰ – 60⁰.
 The pins should be fixed vertical.
 The distance between the two pins should
not be less than 10mm.
 Arrow heads should be marked to represent
the incident and emergent rays.
 The same angle of prism should be used for
all the observations.

 Pin pricks may be thick.
 Measurement of angles may be wrong.

The following sources were used for the

appropriate information required to complete the

Comprehensive: Practical Physics Class XII

NCERT textbook of class XII