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Spectrometer 2010

Prism Spectrometer 

Spectrometer 2010

Table of Contents 

Section Page
Back ground ........................................................................................................ 3
Basic Experiments
Experiment 1: Prism spectrometer ........................................................... 6

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Back ground

reflection and refraction :

the law of reflection states that for a light ray travelling in air and incident on a
smooth surface , the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence :

light crossing a boundary as it travels from medium 1 (with light speed  ) to

medium 2 (with light speed  ) is refracted or bent . the angle of refraction is
defined by the relationship :

From this equation we can infer that when light moves from a material in which its
speed is high to a material in which its speed is lower ,the ray is bent toward the
normal and vice versa.

index of refraction :
the index of refraction is a property of a medium and defined by n

where c is the speed of light in vacuum and v is the speed of light in the medium .In
general ,n varies with wavelength and is given by n

where λ is the vacuum wavelength and λ is the wavelength in the medium .note that
as light travels from one medium to another it s frequency remains the same .

snell's law of refraction states that:


Where and are the indices of refraction for the two media.The incident ray ,the
reflected ray ,the refracted ray and the normal to the surface all
lie in the same plane.

Dispersion is the phenomenon which gives you the separation
of colors in a prism.

For a given material, the index of refraction varies with the

wavelength of the light passing through the material. Fig.1

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The relation between the refractive index and wavelength of light for a particular
transparent material is given by Cauchy's equation :

n λ A

where A and B are material-dependent constants. Note that the larger the value of B,
the more dispersive the medium.

A table of coefficients for common optical materials is shown below:

Glass  A  B (μm2) 

BK7  1.5170  0.00422 

dense flint 1.5961 0.00880

hard crown  1.5043  0.00455 


Because is a function of wavelength, light of different wavelengths is bent at

different angles when incident on a refracting material. the index of refraction
generally decreases with increasing wavelength (for visible light). This means that
violet light bends more than red light does when passing into a refracting material.
white light can be separated by a dispersive medium like a prism. Even more effective
separation can be achieved with a diffraction grating.

the separation of colors by a prism we see the continuous range of spectral colors (the
visible spectrum). A spectral color is composed of a single wavelength and can be
correlated with wavelength as shown in the chart below

This progression from right to left is from long wavelength to short wavelength, and
from low frequency to high frequency light.

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Prism :

A refracting prism is a convenient geometry to illustrate dispersion.

Prisms are typically characterized by their angle of minimum
deviation .

When a ray of single wavelength light incident on a prism from the left
it emerges refracted from its original direction of travel by an angle δ ,
called the angle of deviation Figure.2

The minimum deviation angle δ can be achieved by adjusting the incident ray 
perpendicular to one of the prism's sides which leads that the ray passing through the prism 
to be parallel to the bottom of the prism.  

And the incident angle =the refracting angle 

Using the geometry in the figure, we find that

Where is the apex angle of the prism .

δ δ
θ θ α
2 2 2

From snell's law of refraction, with n 1 because. Figure.3

medium 1 is air

sin θ n sin θ

sin n sin
2 2

sin 2

Hence .knowing the apex angle of the prism and measuring the angle of minimum
deviation we can calculate the index of refraction of the prism material.

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Experiment 1: Prism spectrometer


A spectrometer is an optical instrument for producing and analyzing spectra.

The importance of the spectrometer as a scientific instrument is based on a simple but

crucial fact. Light is emitted or absorbed when an electron changes its orbit within
an individual atom. Because of this, the spectrometer is a powerful tool for
investigating the structure of atoms. It's also a powerful tool for determining which
atoms are present in a substance. Chemists use it to determine the constituents of
molecules, and astronomers use it to determine the constituents of stars that are
millions of light years away.

a spectrometer consists of three basic components As shown in

Figure 4; a collimator, a diffracting element(prism or diffraction grating) , and a
The light to be analyzed enters the collimator through a narrow slit positioned at the
focal point of the collimator lens. The light leaving the collimator is therefore a thin,
parallel beam, which ensures that all the light from the slit strikes the diffracting
element at the same angle of incidence. This is necessary if a sharp image is to be
The diffracting element bends the beam of light. If the beam is composed of many
different colors, each color is diffracted to a different angle.
The telescope can be rotated to collect the diffracted light at very precisely measured
angles. With the telescope focused at infinity and positioned at an angle to collect the
light of a particular color, a precise image of the collimator slit can be seen.

Figure 4 Spectrometer diagram

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–Spectrometer :which consists of

a)Collimator and Telescope

collimator is fitted with a 6 mm long slit of adjustable width. The telescope has an
eyepiece with a glass, cross-hair.
b)Rotating Bases
The telescope and the spectrometer table are mounted on independently rotating
bases. Vernier scales provide measurements of the relative positions of these bases to
within one minute of arc. The rotation of each base is controlled with a lock-screw
and fine adjust knob. With the lock-screw released, the base is easily rotated by hand.
With the lock-screw tight, the fine adjust knob can be used for more precise
c)Spectrometer Table
The spectrometer table is fixed to its rotating base with a thumbscrew, so table height
is adjustable. Three leveling screws on the underside of the table are used to adjust
the optical alignment. Thumbscrews are used to attach the prism clamp and the
grating mount to the table, and reference lines are etched in the table for easy

–Equilateral glass prism.

–Spectrum tube power supply.
–Spectrum tubes such as Mercury, Helium, Cadmium, etc.

Figure 5 Spectrometer with working parts. Not shown is the vernier window on
the opposite side

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1) Learn the theory of the prism spectrometer, and explain the functions of its various

2) Measure the apex angle of the prism .

2) Observe the spectrum of the discharge lamp and record the angle of minimum
deviation for the spectral lines.

3) Determine the index of refraction of a glass prism for various colors and to
examine how the index of refraction of the material of a prism depends on the
wavelength of light.

4) Calculate the dispersive power for each color in the spectrum using the Cauchy

5)determine the Cauchy constants from the plot .and to determine what type of glass
constitutes the prism.

6) Calculate the dispersive power of the prism .

1. Turn on the mercury light. It takes a while to warm up.

To save time and frustration, the spectrometers are adjusted through Step 10. Take the
following steps only if instructed to do so by your TA.

Focus Adjustment

2. With no prism on the prism table, focus the telescope at infinity (something at one
end of the room or through the window, not through the collimator). You may have
to loosen the telescope rotation lock screw to freely move the telescope.
3. While looking through the telescope, slide the eyepiece in and out until the cross
hairs come into sharp focus. Do not use the focusing knob to do this. There is a
locking adjustment around the eyepiece that you can loosen. When you tighten it
up again, make sure the cross hairs are aligned so that one is totally horizontal and
the other is vertical. (If it’s rotated a little, it’s hard to align the spectral lines.)
4. If necessary, repeat steps 2 & 3 until the distant object and the cross hairs can be
put in sharp focus at the same time.
5. Check to see that the collimator slit is partially open. Adjust, if necessary.
6. View the collimator slit through the telescope. Focus the collimator (not the
telescope) until the slit comes into sharp focus.
7. Lock the telescope rotation lock screw. Use the telescope rotation fine adjustment
to align the vertical cross hair with the fixed edge of the slit. (The fine adjust does
not work unless the rotation lock screw is set.)

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Zeroing the Reference Angle

8. Loosen the table base lock screw and rotate the table so that the right window
vernier reads about 0°. Retighten the lock screw.
9.   Using the magnifier and the table base fine adjust, set the vernier to read 0° 0'. This is 
your reference angle.( Notice that there are two windows in which
you can read an angle. We want to rotate the table until one of the windows has 0
(zero), we should try to use set it so that this window is to the left of the telescope (as
we are looking over the barrel toward the lamp) because this will make reading our
angle easiest.
 Setting this to zero means that the vernier reading for a particular spectral line is directly 
the angle of minimum deviation. Do not move the table after you have set this angle.

Prism Mounting

10. Mount the prism at the center of the prism table. If necessary, loosen the (long)
table lock screw which fastens the prism table to the base and adjust the height so
that light from the collimator is striking the prism, then lightly tighten the screw.
Recall that the prism orientation for the minimum deviation is where one of the
sides is roughly perpendicular to the incident light beam(the refracted light is
parallel to one of the sides of the prism), as in Fig. 3. The frosted side of the prism
should be to the right as you’re facing the light source.

Measuring the Apex angle

11.Place the prism on the turntable with its frosted side

hard against the lamp and rotate the table until the beam
from the collimator is roughly bisected by the apex of the
prism as in figure 6.The beam will be reflected off both sides
of the prism (each acting like a plane mirror) so two images of 
the slit can be observed, one on each side of the prism. The angle 
between the two telescope positions is twice the angle of the 
prism. 2

Minimum Deviation Adjustment Figure.6

12. Set up the spectrometer to view light from the

mercury lamp. (See Fig. 7) Based on Fig. 3, estimate
the direction the dispersed light from the collimator
will exit the prism. With your bare eye, look at the
prism along this direction to find the image of the
collimator's slit. You should see a series of brightly-
colored lines.

Note:  measurements should always be made

with the cross hairs aligned on the fixed edge of the
collimator slit. This enables you to adjust the slit's

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width for optimal line visibility at any time during data collection. This way, your
angle measurement is independent of the width of the slit. 

13. If the prism is in exactly the right orientation to provide the angle of minimum
deviation, the series of colored lines move to the right as a whole, whether you
rotate the table clockwise or counterclockwise. rotate the table until you are
satisfied that the orientation is where the lines bounce, or change direction.
14. Now view the lines through the telescope.
a. Rotate the prism back and forth slightly to fine-tune the exact orientation that
puts the lines at their extreme position (the telescope's cross hairs make a
convenient reference mark).
b. Since the position of the prism for minimum deviation is a slowly varying
function of the wavelength, it is not necessary to reset the minimum deviation
for each line (color). Once the prism is set, this orientation should not be
changed for the duration of the experiment.
c. Lightly tighten the prism holder.



15. Measure for line in the mercury spectrum:

a. Loosen the telescope rotation lock screw and rotate the telescope so that its
cross hairs are near the fixed-edge side of the slit's image.
b. Lightly tighten the telescope rotation lock screw.
c. Use the telescope fine adjust knob to carefully align the cross hairs and the
fixed-edge side of the slit's image.
d. Find the value of for this color using the vernier scale.
i. Identify the color from (fig.8) and record the wavelength of the line from
(Table 2).
ii. Record the two numbers from the spectrometer that indicate this angle, the
nearest, lowest half-degree and the minute.

Light Line Color Wavelength

Source (Å)
Mercury Red 6907
Yellow 5790
Yellow 5770
Green 5461
Blue-Green 4916
Blue 4358
Violet 4078 table.2
Violet 4047

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Reading the Angle

The angle   between the moveable telescope and the fixed collimator is
determined using the vernier scale as in (Fig. 9) The bottom degree plate is graduated
in units of 0.5° or 30' (30 arc minutes). The top set of numbers, or the vernier scale,
provides a further resolution of 1' and has a range of 30'. Reading this type of vernier
is the same in principle as the one with the calipers . Follow the procedure below:

Figure 9 The half degree-minute

vernier on the spectrometer.

A. Find the Zero. Locate where the zero mark of the vernier scale aligns with the
degree plate.
B. Record the degrees to the nearest, lowest 0.5°. When the zero of the top scale is
between two lines on the degree plate, use the smaller value. (In Fig. 9), the zero
is between the lines 155° and 155° 30'. 155° is the smaller of the two, so you
record the degrees as 155.
C. Record the minutes. Use the magnifying glass to determine the line on the
vernier scale that aligns most closely with any line on the degree plate. (In Fig. 9),
this is 15', so you write down 15 as the minutes.
D. Add this value to the reading recorded above to get the correct measurement
to within 1 minute of arc: that is, 155 ° + 15' = 155 °15'.


 Opening up the slit allows more light to come through, increasing the intensity and
allowing you to better see the dimmer lines. However, some of the lines are so close to
each other that a wider slit washes out the distinction. In particular, the two yellow lines
of mercury need a very narrow slit in order to distinguish between the two.
 Also, repositioning the lamp can increase the brightness.

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 You can also use the blackout cloth to shield the prism from unwanted light.


1.Based on your use of the spectrometer to measure δ , Determine the index of

refraction of a glass prism for various colors using the equation :

Plot the diagram that indicates the relation between

on the  x axis vs. n on the  y axis   

From the plot :

a. Identify the obtained plot.
b. examine how the index of refraction of the material of a prism depends on the
wavelength of light.and by what equation are they related .
c. by assuming the obtained plot is approximately a straight line ,find the value of the
Cauchy constants. n λ A

where A,B are Cauchy constants

slope=B V.I=A

d. Determine what type of glass constitutes the prism from the obtained values of the
Cauchy constants in (table.1)
e. calculate the error.

2. Calculate the dispersive power for each color (d) using Cauchy equation

Where: D

The obtained table should look like the following:

color δ n λ (nm) 1 λ D
(degree) λ

3.Calculate the dispersive power of the prism (p)

a. Find the intermediate wave length using the relation :
λ:The intermediate wave length , λ : The shortest wave length =λ   ,   λ : The
longest wave length=λ .

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b. Draw a graph that indicates the relation between :  λ on the X-AXIS vs. n on the

c. Locate the position of λ on the digram and its corresponding n

d. Use the relation to calculate the dispersive power of the prism p

n is the Refractive index of the shortest wave length, (n is the Refractive index
of the longest wave length ,(n is the Refractive index of the intermediate wave
length and p is the Dispersive power of the prism.