Refraction

Refraction can occur with any wave type; e.g. sound, seismic and water waves as well as light. The only requirement is that that wave changes its speed of propogation as it enters a new material. If a wave slows down as it enters a new medium then the direction of propogation bends towards the normal, If it speeds up it bends away.

 

A simple way of splitting light into its component wavelengths is by using a prism. This technique was described scientifically by Sir Isaac Newton, although it was well known even before that time. Unfortunately the amount of splitting that can be achieved is limited, and as a result a prism on its own is not very useful for detailed spectroscopy. Fortunately a totally different wave property, diffraction, can be used to achieve far greater spectral resolution.

 

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