Need Help?

Get in touch with us


Refraction of light And Law, Explanation

Grade 10
May 6, 2023

Refraction of Light


Transparent objects let light pass through them. However, when an object is viewed through them, it looks different from what it actually is. This is because light rays bend when they enter a new medium. This phenomenon of bending of light rays is called refraction of light. In this session, we will look at various concepts related to the refraction of light.


The bending of the light rays upon entering a new medium is called the refraction of light. This bending of light makes the lenses, magnifying glasses, and prisms functional, as they all bend light rays entering them to accomplish their tasks. For example, the lens present inside our eyes bends light coming from an object to focus its image onto the retina.

Refraction of light

Refraction of light through a glass slab:

A glass slab is a cuboidal (3-dimensional) piece of glass which can be used to study the refraction of light.

When a beam of light enters a glass slab, it bends slightly from its original path.


It bends again on emerging out of the glass slab and becomes parallel to the initial beam. Refraction takes place because of the change in the speed of light when it enters a new medium.

Refraction of light through a glass slab

Terms related to the refraction of light:

  • There are two mediums involved here; glass and air.
  • The surface of the separation of glass and air is called the interface of refraction.
  • A ray of light that hits the interface from the first medium (air) is called an incident ray.
  • The incident ray, on entering the second medium (glass), is called the refracted ray.
  • The refracted ray, when it emerges out of the second medium back to the first medium or any other medium, is called the emergent ray.
  • The emergent ray emerges parallel to the incident ray.
  • This is because the extent of bending of the ray of light at the opposite parallel faces AB and CD of the glass slab is equal and opposite.
  • The light ray undergoes a lateral shift when it emerges out.
  • An imaginary line is always drawn perpendicular to the interface at the point of incidence is called the normal. A normal line can also be drawn at the point of emergence.
  • The angle made by the incident ray with the normal is called the angle of incidence (i).
  • The angle made by the refracted ray with the normal is called the angle of refraction (r).
  • The angle made by the emergent ray with the normal is called the angle of emergence (e).
Angle of Incidence

Refraction patterns:

From denser to rarer medium:

Air is optically less dense as compared to glass. Thus, it is said to be the rarer medium, and glass is said to be the denser medium.

Mediums like water, glass, and various oils are denser than air.

When a light ray moves from a rarer to a denser medium, it bends toward the normal.


Therefore, the angle of incidence is greater than the angle of refraction. Thus, when light moves from air to glass, it bends toward the normal.

From rarer to denser medium:

When a light ray moves from a denser to a rarer medium, it bends away from the normal.

Thus, when light moves from air to glass, it bends away from the normal. Here, the angle of incidence is less than the angle of refraction.

Normal incidence:

Normal incidence is when the incident light ray goes along the normal to the refracting interface.

The light ray does not bend at all while passing through the medium in this case. Instead, it goes straight through the medium. The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of refraction, i.e., 0 degrees.

Normal incidence

Laws of refraction:

The refraction of light follows two rules while refracting from a medium. These are called the laws of refraction, which are as follows:

  1. The incident ray, the reflected ray, and the normal to the interface of two transparent mediums at the point of incidence all lie on the same plane.
  2. Snell’s law – The ratio of the sine of the angle of incidence to the sine of the angle of refraction is a constant for the light of a given color and the given pair of mediums. This law is true for 0o < i < 90o.

If ‘i’ is the angle of incidence and ‘r’ is the angle of refraction, then,

This constant is called the refractive index of the second medium w.r.t the first medium.

Refraction of Light


Related topics

Types of Waves

Different Types of Waves and Their Examples

Introduction: We can’t directly observe many waves like light waves and sound waves. The mechanical waves on a rope, waves on the surface of the water, and a slinky are visible to us. So, these mechanical waves can serve as a model to understand the wave phenomenon. Explanation: Types of Waves: Fig:1 Types of waves […]

Dispersion of Light

Dispersion of Light and the Formation of Rainbow

Introduction: Visible Light: Visible light from the Sun comes to Earth as white light traveling through space in the form of waves. Visible light contains a mixture of wavelengths that the human eye can detect. Visible light has wavelengths between 0.7 and 0.4 millionths of a meter. The different colors you see are electromagnetic waves […]


Force: Balanced and Unbalanced Forces

Introduction: In a tug of war, the one applying more force wins the game. In this session, we will calculate this force that makes one team win and one team lose. We will learn about it in terms of balanced force and unbalanced force. Explanation: Force Force is an external effort that may move a […]


Magnets: Uses, Materials, and Their Interactions

Introduction: Nowadays magnets are widely used for many applications. In this session, we will discuss the basics of magnets and their properties, and the way they were and are used. Explanation: Magnets: Magnetic and Non-magnetic Materials: Poles of a Magnet: Fig No. 1.2: Poles of a magnet Compass: Interaction Between Magnets: The north pole of […]


Other topics