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Priyanshu kumar
12 A ‘3 ’
Roll No. -
Tulsi Vidya Niketan
This is hereby to certify that the
original and genuine
investigation work has been
carried out to investigate about
the subject matter and the
related data collection and
investigation has been completed
solely, sincerely and satisfactorily
by Priyanshu kumar a student of class
12 A’3’ of Tulsi Vidya Niketan school ,Varansi
regarding his project titled

“Total Internal Reflection” .


It would be my utmost pleasure to express

my sincere thanks to my Physics teacher
Mr. V.P. Dubey sir and Mr. Ajit
Kr. Srivastav sir in providing a
helping hand in this project. Their
valuable guidance, support and supervision all
through this project are responsible for
attaining its present form. I would also
like to thank my parents and friends as
they encouraged me to put forward my project.
 Introduction
 Optical description
 Critical angle
 Total internal reflection in diamond
 Applications of total internal reflection
 Examples in everyday life

Total internal reflection is an optical phenomenon that
happens when a ray of light strikes a medium boundary
at an angle larger than a particular critical angle with
respect to the normal to the surface. If the refractive index
is lower on the other side of the boundary and the incident
angle is greater than the critical angle, no light can pass
through and all of the light is reflected. The critical angle
is the angle of incidence above which the total internal
reflectance occurs.
When a light beam crosses a boundary between materials
with different kinds of refractive indices, the light beam
will be partially refracted at the boundary surface, and
partially reflected. However, if the angle of incidence is
greater (i.e. the ray is closer to being parallel to the
boundary) than the critical angle – the angle of incidence
at which light is refracted such that it travels along the
boundary – then the light will stop crossing the boundary
altogether and instead be totally reflected back internally.
This can only occur where light travels from a medium
with a higher [n1=higher refractive index] to one with a
lower refractive index [n2=lower refractive index]. For
example, it will occur when passing from glass to air, but
not when passing from air to glass.
Total internal reflection can be demonstrated using a semi-
circular block of glass or plastic. A "ray box" shines a narrow
beam of light (a "ray") onto the glass. The semi-circular shape
ensures that a ray pointing towards the centre of the flat face
will hit the curved surface at a right angle; this will prevent
refraction at the air/glass boundary of the curved surface. At
the glass/air boundary of the flat surface, what happens will
depend on the angle? Where is θC the critical angle
measurement which is caused by the sun or a light source
(measured normal to the surface):
• If θ < θC, the ray will split. Some of the ray will reflect
off the boundary, and some will refract as it passes through.
This is not total internal reflection.
• If θ > θC, the entire ray reflects from the boundary. None
passes through. This is called total internal reflection.
This physical property makes optical fibres useful and
prismatic binoculars possible. It is also what gives diamonds
their distinctive sparkle, as diamond has an unusually high
refractive index.
The critical angle is the angle of incidence above which
total internal reflection occurs. The angle of incidence is
measured with respect to the normal at the refractive
boundary (see diagram illustrating Snell's law). Consider
a light ray passing from glass into air. The light
emanating from the interface is bent towards the glass.
When the incident angle is increased sufficiently, the
transmitted angle (in air) reaches 90 degrees. It is at this
point no light is transmitted into air. The critical angle is
given by Snell's law.
𝒏𝟏 𝐬𝐢𝐧 𝜽𝒊 = 𝒏𝟐 𝐬𝐢𝐧 𝜽𝒕

Rearranging Snell's Law, we get incidence

𝐬𝐢𝐧 𝜽𝒊 = 𝐬𝐢𝐧 𝜽𝒕

To find the critical angle, we find the value for 𝜽𝒊

when 𝜽𝒕 = 𝟗𝟎° and thus 𝐬𝐢𝐧 𝜽𝒕 = 𝟏 .The resulting
value of is equal to the critical angle 𝜽𝒄 .
Now, we can solve for 𝜽𝒊 , and we get the equation for the
critical angle:
𝜽𝒄 = 𝜽𝒊 = 𝐬𝐢𝐧−𝟏 (𝒏𝟐 )
If the incident ray is precisely at the critical angle, the
refracted ray is tangent to the boundary at the point of
incidence. If for example, visible light were travelling
through acrylic glass (with an index of refraction of
1.50) into air (with an index of refraction of 1.00), the
calculation would give the critical angle for light from
acrylic into air, which is

𝟏. 𝟎𝟎
𝜽𝒄 = 𝐬𝐢𝐧 ( ) = 𝟒𝟏. 𝟖
𝟏. 𝟓𝟎
From glass to air the critical angle is about 42o but it varies
from one medium to another. The material that gives the
smallest critical angle is diamond. That is why they sparkle so
much! Rays of light can easily be made to 'bounce around
inside them' by careful cutting of the stone and the refraction at
the surfaces splits the light into a spectrum of colours!
Relatively speaking, the critical angle 24.4o for the diamond-
air boundary is extremely small. This property of the
diamond-air boundary plays an important role in the brilliance
of a diamond gemstone. Having a small critical angle, light
has the tendency to become "trapped" inside of a diamond once
it enters. Most rays approach the diamond at angles of
incidence greater than the critical angle (as it is so small) so a
light ray will typically undergo TIR several times before
finally refracting out of the diamond. This gives diamond a
tendency to sparkle. The effect can be enhanced by the cutting of
a diamond gemstone with a 'strategically' planned shape.
 Total internal reflection is the operating principle of
optical fibres, which are used in endoscopes and
 Total internal reflection is the operating principle of
automotive rain sensors, which control automatic
windscreen/windshield wipers.
 Another application of total internal reflection is the
spatial filtering of light.
 Prismatic binoculars use the principle of total
internal reflections to get a very clear image.
 Gonioscopy employs total internal reflection to view
the anatomical angle formed between the eye's cornea
and iris.
 Optical fingerprinting devices use frustrated total
internal reflection in order to record an image of a
person's fingerprint without the use of ink.
 A Total internal reflection fluorescence microscope
uses the evanescent wave produced by TIR to excite
fluorophores close to a surface. This is useful for the
study of surface properties of biological samples.
Total internal reflection can be observed while swimming, when
one opens one's eyes just under the water's surface. If the water
is calm, its surface appears mirror-like.
One can demonstrate total internal reflection by filling a sink or
bath with water, taking a glass tumbler, and placing it upside-
down over the plug hole (with the tumbler completely filled
with water). While water remains both in the upturned tumbler
and in the sink surrounding it, the plug hole and plug are
visible since the angle of refraction between glass and water is
not greater than the critical angle. If the drain is opened and
the tumbler is kept in position over the hole, the water in the
tumbler drains out leaving the glass filled with air, and this
then acts as the plug. Viewing this from above, the tumbler now
appears mirrored because light reflects off the air/glass
This is different phenomenon from reflection and refraction.
Reflection occurs when light goes back in same medium.
Refraction occurs when light travels from different mediums.
Here both are not happening. This is due to both and a mixture
of both.Another common example of total internal reflection is
a critically cut diamond.
Following Books and websites were a source for my project.

 Wikipedia
 NCERT Physics Textbook for class 12
 Feynman Lectures on Physics
 Google