ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Reflection and Refraction of Light & It's Applications

Updated on January 24, 2013

Behavioural characteristics of light: Reflection and Refraction

The two most observable behavioural characteristics of light are reflection and refraction. This hub attempts to investigate reflection and refraction of light, and its application in everyday living.

Reflection is the bouncing of light off a surface, the simplest example being the reflection of a laser beam off a mirror. When illustrating the reflection of light it is essential to draw in a ‘Normal’ line; 90o to the reflective surface. Light is travels in a straight line and is represented as a singular line when demonstrating reflection.

When light reflects off a plane mirror, the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection - mathematically: i = r, as in the diagram below. (The angles of incidence and reflection is the angle measured between the ray and the normal).

Reflection of light acts in the same manner when being reflected off concave or convex mirrors (i = r), but due to the curvature of the reflective surface, causes the light to focus (whether it be internally or externally).

In concave mirrors, light is directed into a focal point within the curve of the mirror. Examples of their practical application are anywhere where beams of light must be focused, such as dentist's mirrors, torches or headlights.

Convex mirrors disperse the rays of light, with the focus actually located within the curve. Their application is anywhere where an extended field of view is needed, such as mirrors in parking lots and in buses.

The diagrams below illustrate reflection of light from a concave and a convex mirror.


Refraction of light involves the 'bending' of light as it travels from one medium to another, and is the result of a change in the velocity of light. An example of this 'bending' can be seen with a spoon placed in a glass of water.

When travelling from one medium into a denser medium, the light bends towards the normal (and vice versa). The refraction of light obeys Snells law: Sin i/Sin r = n2/n1 = v1/v2 = π12. The refractive index (n) for a wave travelling from one medium to another is the ratio of the sine of the angle of incidence to the sine of the angle of reflection. The refractive index is indicitive of the amount of bending (change in velocity) that will occur; the refractive index of light in a vacuum being equal to 1.

Total Internal Reflection

Total internal reflection occurs when light moves from a transparent medium into air and bends so much it is totally internally reflected (as shown by the blue ray in the diagram to the right).

There are two conditions that must be met for total internal reflection to occur:

  1. The internal medium has a higher refractive index than the external medium.
  2. The angle of incidence must exceed the critical angle (i > c).

The popularity of total internal reflection for communication purposes has steadily increased over the last several years, as light can travel considerably faster than electricity, and significanly more information can be encoded. Total internal reflection is used in technology such as firbe optic cables.


Reflection and Refraction of Light


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)