As light crosses the boundary between two transparent media, the law of refraction (Snell’s law) states the relationship between the angle of incidence and angle of refraction of the light with reference to the refractive indices of both of the materials as follows:
When electromagnetic radiation (light) of a specific frequency crosses the interface of any given pair of media, the ratio of the sines of the angles of incidence and the sines of the angles of refraction is a constant in every case.
- Snell’s law deals with the fact that for an incident ray approaching the boundary of two media, the sine of the angle of incidence multiplied by the index of refraction of the first medium is equal to the sine of the angle of refraction multiplied by the index of refraction of the second medium.
- Snell’s law deals with the fact that the sine of the angle of incidence to the sine of the angle of refraction is constant when a light ray passes across the boundary from one medium to another.
- Snell’s law can be used to calculate the angle of incidence or refraction associated with the use of lenses, prisms and other everyday materials.
- When using Snell’s law:
- The angles of incidence and refraction are measured between the direction of a ray of light and the normal – where the normal is an imaginary line drawn on a ray diagram perpendicular to, so at a right angle to (900), to the boundary between two media.
- The wavelength of the incident light is accounted for.
- The refractive indices used are selected for the pair of media concerned.
- The speed of light is expressed in metres per second (m/s).