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College of Engineering
Chemical Engineering Department
M a ni l a


51080/ F/ 7:00 10:00/OZ404

Submitted by:

Agoto, Ariadna L.
Roderno, Karl Philip G.

Santiago, Dana Michiko M.


Submitted to:
Engr. Robert Delfin

Date of the Experiment: September 15, 2017

Date of Submission: September 22, 2017

Refractive index measurement is actually the measurement of the speed of light in a

medium. To get the refractive index, an instrument called a refractometer is used. It measures
the extent to which the light is bent, refracted in this case, when it moves from air into a sample
and is typically used to determine the index of refraction (refractive index or n) of a liquid
sample. This experiment makes use of ethyl alcohol and sucrose solution with different
concentrations to get the value of the refractive index.


Index of Refraction, or also known as Refractive Index, is defined as the speed of light
in vacuum divided by the speed of light in the medium or simply a value calculated from the
ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to that in a second medium of greater density. In most
cases, the refractive index is linearly (or nearly linearly) related to the percentage of dissolved
solids in a solution.


Refraction is the bending of a wave when it enters a medium where its speed is different.
The refraction of light when it passes from a fast medium to a slow medium bends the light ray
toward the normal to the boundary between the two media. The amount of bending depends on
the indices of refraction of the two media and is described quantitatively by Snell's Law.

The bending of refraction can be visualized in terms of Huygen's principle. As the speed
of light is reduced in the slower medium, the wavelength is shortened proportionately. The
frequency is unchanged; it is a characteristic of the source of the light and unaffected by medium

Snells Law

Snell's Law relates the indices of refraction n of the two media to the directions of
propagation in terms of the angles to the normal. In other words, it states that the sine of the
angle of incidence and the sine of the angle of refraction are constant. Mathematically,
1 sini
2 sinr

Where n represents the refractive indices of material 1 and material 2 and are the angles
of light traveling through these materials with respect to the normal. There are several important
points that can be drawn from this equation. When 1 is greater than 2, the angle of refraction is
always larger than the angle of incidence. Alternatively when 2 is greater than 1 the angle of
refraction is always smaller than the angle of incidence. When the two refractive indices are
equal (1 = 2), then the light is passed through without refraction.

Consider the following:

Incident ray i



r Refracted ray

Figure 1: An example of the bending of light as it passes through a medium of different density

It is observed that when light passes from a less dense medium, like air, to a denser
medium like glass, the beam of light is deflected towards the normal.

Index of Refraction

Index of Refraction, or also known as Refractive Index, is defined as the speed of light
in vacuum divided by the speed of light in the medium or simply a value calculated from the
ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to that in a second medium of greater density. The
refractive index variable is most commonly symbolized by the letter n or in descriptive text and
mathematical equations.
The extent of interaction between electromagnetic radiation and the medium through
which it passes is a measure of the mediums refractive index. Mathematically, it can also be
expressed as:


Where: - index of refraction

c velocity of light in vacuum
v velocity of light in the medium


A refractometer characterizes fluids based on their refractive index the refraction occurs
due to the change in the speed of light as it travels through a material of one density to one of
different density.

Refractive Index is based on Snells Law, which describes the relationship between the
angle of incidence and the angle of diffraction for light hitting the boundary between two
different media, for example a liquid solution and air.

Determining Concentrations through Refractometer

Determining the concentration of a solute in a solution is probably the most popular use
of refractometry. For example, refractometer-based methods have been developed for
determining the percentage of sugar in fruits, juices, and syrups, the percentage of alcohol in beer
or wine, the salinity of water, and the concentration of antifreeze in radiator fluid. Many
industries use refractometer-based methods in quality control applications.

In most cases the refractive index is linearly (or nearly linearly) related to the percentage
of dissolved solids in a solution (Figure 2). By comparing the value of the refractive index of a
solution to that of a standard curve the concentration of solute can be determined with good
accuracy. Many refractometers contain a "Brix" scale that is calibrated to give the percentage
(w/w) of sucrose dissolved in water.
Figure 2: A standard curve showing the relationship between the refractive index and the percentage (w/w) of
sucrose in a solution of water at 20 C.


This experiment aimed to measure the index of refraction of the given samples as stated
below. A traditional handheld refractometer was used for this experiment, which was provided
by the Engineering Laboratory located in OZ fourth floor. A refractometer is a device used to
measure the refractive index.

The result of this experiment was determined by using different concentrations of ethyl
alcohol and sucrose solution. For this configuration, two groups were assigned to make a 10% -
90% concentrations with a 10% interval solution. This group mainly focused in observing the
refractive index of ethanol solution.

A traditional handheld refractometer was used to measure the refractive index of the
ethanol solutions. First, the lower part of the prism face was cleaned using water and was dried
using a cotton. Note that it is essential to clean the prism face first before putting the solution
because it would interfere in determining the value of the refractive index. Next, a drop of 10%
ethanol solution was placed in the lower prism face of the refractometer. Then, the hinged
higher prism face was closed with a knob so that the solution is evenly distributed in the whole
face of the refracting prism. After this, the refractometer is turned on wherein a light emits. The
dispersion for the fair division of the light color to dark color was adjusted using the upper
smaller dispersion correction knob. It was adjusted again this time, to center the boundary of
the crosshairs using the lower large adjustment knob. To read the results yielded by the
refractometer, two scales are visible which are the upper and lower portions. The refractive
index of the specific solution was then recorded. The same procedure was followed as well for
the 20% - 90% solution.

Materials, Reagents, and Instrumentation

This experiment required distilled water, sucrose, and ethyl alcohol as the samples. The
sucrose provided was in crystal form and its dilution was done was adding distilled water. For
the materials and instrumentation, the experimenters used a refractometer, test tubes, droppers,
and beakers, which were provided in the laboratory.

A. Calibration with Distilled Water

Two drops of distilled water was placed on the measuring surface of the refractometer.
The experimenters then looked through the eyepiece of the device and then recorded the reading
at the point where a contrast line between blue and white can be seen.

B. Measurement of Refractive index of solutions

Different concentrations of ethyl alcohol, sucrose, and Chuckie (a chocolate drink)

were prepared by the experimenters. The concentrations varied from 10% to 90% with a 10%
interval. Using the same process in part A, the reading of each solution was recorded. It was also
made sure the that the measuring surface of the refractometer was cleaned in each experiment by
adding 2 drops of distilled water and then drying it with a clean tissue.


The results observed during the experiment for the measurement of refractive index using
a traditional handheld refractometer of the separate different concentrations of ethyl alcohol,
sucrose, and the unknown sample were tabulated and plotted in order to present the data in a
clear and concise form.
I. Calibration using Distilled Water
Temperature ()
Refractive Index

II. Measurement of Refractive Index of Solutions

Sucrose Ethanol
10% 9.5 20 4.8 20
20% 19 20 3.0 20
30% 36 20 3.2 20
40% 45 20 1.1 20
50% 53 20 4.0 20
60% 61 20 1.8 20
70% NA 20 4.8 20
80% NA 20 4.0 20
90% NA 20 3.0 20



Unknown 1
Unknown 2
Unknown 3
Unknown 4
Unknown 5

The experiment measures the refractive index of ethanol solutions. Two groups were
assigned to get the refractive index of ethyl alcohol and sucrose with concentrations of 10% to
90% in 10% interval. The index of refraction of a liquid depends on the density of the liquid.
Mixing ethyl alcohol and water together, results in a solution with a density greater than water
alone. Since ethanol solution is denser than water, it should have a higher index of refraction. In
other words, the higher the concentration, the light bends more which means higher refractive
index. Therefore, the refractive index should be increasing because the solution is getting
thicker, creating a denser medium with a higher refractive index. Based from the values
obtained, results were contrary to the values that must be observed; ethanol solution ranging
from 10% -40%, as the percentage of ethanol solution increases, the reading of the refractive
index decreases while from 60% - 70% we observed that the values slightly increased and then it
suddenly decreases as it approaches 90%.. Therefore, the experimental data that was gathered
does not satisfies this and it is within the theoretical value of the ethanol as well, so there were
inconsistencies based from the readings.

There are several errors that was encountered while the experiment is underway, the most
obvious one for this case is that the refractometer was not cleaned properly therefore leading to
incorrect reading of the refractive index. During the first reading, there is no horizontal dark/light
boundary regardless of the coarse adjustment position. This is indicative of sample evaporation
so the solution must be added again. It is also noted that ethanol evaporates quickly if exposed
into the atmosphere for a long time. So the ethanol solution must be prepared before the
measurement takes place to avoid evaporation.


After conducting the experiment, i conclude that we were not able to use the refractometer to its
full extent since based on the data stated above, we were not able to determine the refractive
index of a sample distilled water. The data above may not be as accurate as what we expect due
to some errors but fortunately, upon checking the results of the sample sucrose with different
concentrations, we can see that as the concentration of a solution increases, its refractive index
also increases. We may therefore conclude that the refractive index of each solution is directly
proportional to the concentration.

We recommend that we should handle the refractometer with care to retain its accuracy and to
also clean it from time to time. We also recommend that in the future, aside from getting the
refractive index by the given concentration of a solution at room temperature, we can also
determine the refractive index at different temperature for each solution that has different
concentrations to also prove the relationship between refractive index and temperature stating
that as the temperature increases, its refractive index also increases.


Refraction of Light. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2017, from HyperPhysics:

Index of Refraction. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2017 from http://hyperphysics.phy-

Davidson, M. W. (n.d.). Refractive Index (Index of Refraction). Retrieved from MicroscopyU:

Snells Law. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2017, from HyperPhysics: http://hyperphysics.phy-

DePalma, A. (n.d.). Refractometer Uses in Industry and Selection. Retrieved September 18,
2017, from Rudolph Analytical Research:

Hanson, J. (2003). Refractometry. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from Chemistry Lab


T() Temperature

Fig.1. Reading the refractive index using a refractometer.

Fig.2. Refractometer