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Lecture Notes Module VIII The Nature and Propagation of Light The Nature of Light Light is an electromagnetic wave.

. When omitted or absorbed, it always shows particle properties. It is emitted by accelerated electric charges that have been given excess energy by heat or electrical discharge. Light is composed of elementary particles called photons. The three basic dimensions of light (i.e., all electromagnetic radiation) are: Intensity, or alternatively amplitude, which is related to the perception of brightness of the light, Frequency, or alternatively wavelength, perceived by humans as the color of the light, and Polarization (angle of vibration), which is only weakly perceptible by humans under ordinary circumstances. The speed of light in a vacuum is commonly given the symbol c. It is a universal constant that has the value c = 3 x 1010 cm/second Our eyes interpret these wavelengths as different colors. If only a single wavelength or limited range of wavelengths are present and enter our eyes, they are interpreted as a certain color. If a single wavelength is present we say that we have monochromatic light. If all wavelengths of visible light are present, our eyes interpret this as white light. If no wavelengths in the visible range are present, we interpret this as dark. Properties of Light: Reflection, Refraction, Dispersion, and Refractive Indices

Light is electromagnetic radiation that has properties of waves. The electromagnetic spectrum can be divided into several bands based on the wavelength of the light waves.

We here define refractive index, n, of a material or substance as the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum, C, to the speed of light in a material through which it passes, Cm. n = C/Cm Note that the value of refractive index will always be greater than 1.0, since Cm can never be greater than C. In general, Cm depends on the density of the material, with Cm decreasing with increasing density. Thus, higher density materials will have higher refractive indices. The change in speed that occurs when light passes from one medium to another is responsible for the bending of light, or refraction, that takes place at an interface. If light is traveling from medium 1 into medium 2, and angles are measured from the normal to the interface, the angle of transmission of the light into the second medium is related to the angle of incidence by Snell's law :

Interaction of Light with Matter Refraction When light travels through something else, such as glass, diamond, or plastic, it travels at a different speed. The speed of light in a given material is related to a quantity called the index of refraction, n, which is defined as the ratio of the speed of light in vacuum to the speed of light in the medium: The energy of light is related to its frequency and velocity as follows:

Where: E = energy h = Planck's constant, 6.62517 x 10-27 erg.sec n = frequency C = velocity of light = 2.99793 x 1010 cm/sec l = wavelength The velocity of light, C, in a vacuum is 2.99793 x 1010cm/sec. Light cannot travel faster than this, but if it travels through a substance, its velocity will decrease. Note that from the equation given aboveC = nl The frequency of vibration, n, remains constant when the light passes through a substance. Thus, if the velocity, C, is reduced on passage through a substance, the wavelength, l, must also decrease. A light ray is a stream of light with the smallest possible crosssectional area. (Rays are theoretical constructs.) The incident ray is defined as a ray approaching a surface. The point of incidence is where the incident ray strikes a surface. The normal is a construction line drawn perpendicular to the surface at the point of incidence. The reflected ray is the portion of the incident ray that leaves the surface at the point of incidence. The angle of incidence is the angle between the incident ray and the normal. The angle of reflection is the angle between the normal and the reflected ray. The Laws of reflection: - The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection - The incident ray, the normal, and the reflected ray are coplanar Specular reflection (regular reflection) occurs when incident parallel rays are also reflected parallel from a smooth surface. If the surface is rough (on a microscopic level), parallel incident rays are no longer

parallel when reflected. This results in diffuse reflection (irregular reflection). The laws of reflection apply to diffuse reflection. The irregular surface can be considered to be made up of a large number of small planar reflecting surfaces positioned at slightly different angles. Indirect (or diffuse) lighting produces soft shadows. It produces less eye strain than harsher, direct lighting. Dispersion of Light The fact that refractive indices differ for each wavelength of light produces an effect called dispersion. This can be seen by shining a beam of white light into a triangular prism made of glass. White light entering such a prism will be refracted in the prism by different angles depending on the wavelength of the light. The refractive index for longer wavelengths (red) is lower than those for shorter wavelengths (violet). This results in the greater angle of refraction for the longer wavelengths than for the shorter wavelengths. (Shown here are the paths taken for a wavelength of 800 nm, angle r 800 and for a wavelength of 300 nm, angle r 300). When the light exits from the other side of the prism, we see the different wavelengths dispersed to show the different colors of the spectrum.


Polarization can also be achieved by passing the light through a substance that absorbs light vibrating in all directions except one. The device used to make polarized light in modern microscopes is a Polaroid, a trade name for a plastic film made by the Polaroid Corporation. A Polaroid consists of long-chain organic molecules that are aligned in one direction and placed in a plastic sheet. They are placed close enough to form a closely spaced linear grid, which allows the passage of light vibrating only in the same direction as the grid. Light vibrating in all other directions is absorbed. Such a device is also called a polarizer.


Excited electrons emit light waves, and just so happens, the opposite is true: light waves can excite electrons. When electrons are excited by light waves, they jump to a higher energy level. When they fall back to their original energy level, the electrons reemit the light. This process is called scattering. However, when the light is reemitted by scattering, not all of the energy is given back to the light wave; but instead, some is lost to the particle. This will result in a light wave of lower frequency and wavelength as described by Compton's shift formula: Polarization of Light Normal light vibrates equally in all direction perpendicular to its path of propagation. If the light is constrained to vibrate in only on plane, however, we say that it is plane polarized light. The direction that the light vibrates is called the vibration direction, which for now will be perpendicular to the direction. There are two common ways that light can become polarized.

There are two common ways that light can become polarized. 1. The first involves reflection off of a non-metallic surface, such as glass or paint. An unpolarized beam of light, vibrating in all directions perpendicular to its path strikes such a surface and is reflected. The reflected beam will be polarized with vibration directions parallel to the reflecting surface (perpendicular to the page as indicated by the open circles on the ray path). If some of this light also enters the material and is refracted at an angle 90 o to the path of the reflected ray, it too will become partially polarized, with vibration directions again perpendicular to the path of the refracted ray, but in the plane perpendicular to the direction of vibration in the reflected ray (the plane of the paper, as shown in the drawing).

When light is scattered on an object smaller than the wavelength of light, the process is called Rayleigh scattering. Because of the nature of Rayleigh scattering -- light waves scattered by objects smaller than its wavelength -- it is very frequency dependent. Higher frequency, shorter wavelength, light are scattered the most while lower frequency, longer wavelength, light is scattered the least by very small particles. The color of the sky is the direct result of Rayleigh scattering of the sunlight. Lower frequency light waves, such as red, are able to pass though a network of air particles better than higher frequency light waves, such as blue. During the day, the particles in the atmosphere will scatter the sunlight and lower its frequency to somewhere in the blue range. At sunset, the light waves from the sun have to travel a greater distance to reach us. Because of that, all of the light waves have been scattered so much that it lowers the frequency to the other end of our visible range: red.

Huygens' Principle In many cases, light waves are very much like water waves. One distinct difference, however, is that water waves are waves on a 2 dimensional plane (surface of the water) while light waves are waves within 3 dimensional space. The wave theory, proposed by the Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens, viewed light as an impulse moving in all directions. Consider a point P in space. If an impulse starts at P, then the effect of the impulse, after some time, will be equidistant from P in all directions -- one can visualize this impulse as an expanding sphere with center P.

Huygens called this sphere a front. Most importantly, every point on a front can be a source of new wavelets (act just like point P), and the envelope around those wavelets forms another front. In other words, a second front can be created from the first by making each point of the first front the origin of another impulse. All these impulses combine and appear as if the original front is expanding. Geometric Optics We define an object as anything from which light radiates. Mirrors Mirrors can be used to direct light and to manipulate the wavefront to give focusing and defocusing. This section looks at how images are formed using mirrors. Graphical methods for mirrors Principal Rays: 1. 2. 3. 4. The parallel Rays drawn parallel to the axis. Focal ray drawn through the focal point F. The radial Ray drawn through or away from the center of the curvature C. The central Ray drawn to the vertex.

comparison with object, image and focal distances. Vergence theory allows a quick derivation of the propagation of light through any this lens. Types of simple lenses Lenses are classified by the curvature of the two optical surfaces. A lens is biconvex (or double convex, or just convex) if both surfaces are convex, A lens with two concave surfaces is biconcave (or just concave). If one of the surfaces is flat, the lens is Plano-convex or Plano-concave depending on the curvature of the other surface. A lens with one convex and one concave side is convex-concave or meniscus. A meniscus lens that is thinner at the centre than at the periphery is a negative meniscus. Conversely, a meniscus lens that is thicker at the centre than at the periphery is a positive meniscus.

Geometric Construction When attempting any problem using mirrors, it is important to draw yourself a diagram showing the position of the object in relation to the mirror and estimating the position of the image. This is best achieved by drawing a ray diagram. A number of different types of rays can be drawn and these are shown in the diagram below. The image is formed where they intersect. If the lens is biconvex or plano-convex or a positive meniscus, a collimated or parallel beam of light travelling parallel to the lens axis and passing through the lens will be converged (or focused) to a spot on the axis, at a certain distance behind the lens (known as the focal length). In this case, the lens is called a positive or converging lens.

Ray Diagrams for Thin Lenses Ray Diagrams 1. 2. 3. Parallel Ray: refracted through focus Focal Ray: refracted parallel Central Ray: passes (straight) through

Lensmaker's equation


The focal length of a lens in air can be calculated from the lensmaker's equation:[6]

1 1 1 = ( n 1)( ) f R1 R2
f is the focal length of the lens, n is the refractive index of the lens material, R1 is the radius of curvature of the lens surface closest to the light source, R2 is the radius of curvature of the lens surface farthest from the light source,


Thin Lenses A thin lens is simply two interfaces joined together. A curved interface together with a straight interface forms a plano-convex/plano-concave lens while two curved surfaces form biconvex/biconcave lenses. The distance between the interfaces on axis is assumed to be small in