Manual The Ray and Wave Theory of Lenses

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Aritra G. May 29, Related questions How do binoculars work? How can fiber optics be used in medicine?

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Wave Theory - Mirrors and Lenses

Impact of this question views around the world. You can reuse this answer Creative Commons License. Since the light ray is passing from a medium in which it travels relatively fast less optically dense into a medium in which it travels relatively slow more optically dense , it will bend towards the normal line. Since the light ray is passing from a medium in which it travels relatively slow more optically dense to a medium in which it travels fast less optically dense , it will bend away from the normal line.

History of optics

This is the SFA principle of refraction. These principles of refraction are identical to what was observed for the double convex lens above. The above diagram shows the behavior of two incident rays approaching parallel to the principal axis of the double concave lens. Just like the double convex lens above , light bends towards the normal when entering and away from the normal when exiting the lens.

Thin Lens Equation Converging and Dverging Lens Ray Diagram & Sign Conventions

Yet, because of the different shape of the double concave lens, these incident rays are not converged to a point upon refraction through the lens. Rather, these incident rays diverge upon refracting through the lens. For this reason, a double concave lens can never produce a real image. Double concave lenses produce images that are virtual.

This will be discussed in more detail in the next part of Lesson 5. If the refracted rays are extended backwards behind the lens, an important observation is made. The extension of the refracted rays will intersect at a point. This point is known as the focal point.


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Notice that a diverging lens such as this double concave lens does not really focus the incident light rays that are parallel to the principal axis; rather, it diverges these light rays. For this reason, a diverging lens is said to have a negative focal length. The first generalization can now be made for the refraction of light by a double concave lens:. Any incident ray traveling parallel to the principal axis of a diverging lens will refract through the lens and travel in line with the focal point i.

Now suppose that the rays of light are traveling towards the focal point on the way to the lens. Because of the negative focal length for double concave lenses, the light rays will head towards the focal point on the opposite side of the lens.

The reflection and refraction of light

These rays will actually reach the lens before they reach the focal point. The above diagram shows the behavior of two incident rays traveling towards the focal point on the way to the lens.

A second generalization for the refraction of light by a double concave lens can be added to the first generalization. The above discussion focuses on the manner in which converging and diverging lenses refract incident rays that are traveling parallel to the principal axis or are traveling through or towards the focal point.

But these are not the only two possible incident rays. There are a multitude of incident rays that strike the lens and refract in a variety of ways.


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  6. Yet, there are three specific rays that behave in a very predictable manner. The third ray that we will investigate is the ray that passes through the precise center of the lens - through the point where the principal axis and the vertical axis intersect. This ray will refract as it enters and refract as it exits the lens, but the net effect of this dual refraction is that the path of the light ray is not changed.

    For a thin lens , the refracted ray is traveling in the same direction as the incident ray and is approximately in line with it. The behavior of this third incident ray is depicted in the diagram below. Now we have three incident rays whose refractive behavior is easily predicted.

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    The ray and wave theory of lenses | Open Library

    These three rays lead to our three rules of refraction for converging and diverging lenses. These three rules are summarized below. These three rules of refraction for converging and diverging lenses will be applied through the remainder of this lesson.


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    The rules merely describe the behavior of three specific incident rays. While there is a multitude of light rays being captured and refracted by a lens, only two rays are needed in order to determine the image location. So as we proceed with this lesson, pick your favorite two rules usually, the ones that are easiest to remember and apply them to the construction of ray diagrams and the determination of the image location and characteristics.

    Read Watch Interact Physics Tutorial. Kinematics Newton's Laws. What Can Teachers Do Student Extras. Why just read about it and when you could be interacting with it? Interact - that's exactly what you do when you use one of The Physics Classroom's Interactives. You can find this in the Physics Interactives section of our website. Its like having a complete optics toolkit on your screen.