Refraction Through Lenses
Lenses are found in a huge array of optical instruments, ranging from the simple magnifying glass to a camera lens to the lens of the human eye. The word lens derives from the Latin word for lentil bean—the shape of which is similar to that of the convex lens (as shown in Figure 1). The convex lens is shaped so that all light rays that enter it parallel to its axis cross one another at a single point on the opposite side of the lens. The axis is defined as a line normal to the lens at its center (as shown in Figure 1). Such a lens is called a converging (or convex) lens for the corresponding effect it has on light rays. The expanded view of the path of one ray through the lens illustrates how the ray changes direction both as it enters and as it leaves the lens.
Since the index of refraction of the lens is greater than that of air, the ray moves towards the perpendicular as it enters, and away from the perpendicular as it leaves (this is in accordance with the law of refraction). Due to the lens’s shape, light is thus bent toward the axis at both surfaces. The point at which the rays cross is defined as the focal point F of the lens. The distance from the center of the lens to its focal point is defined as the focal length f of the lens. Figure 2 shows how a converging lens, such as that in a magnifying glass, can concentrate (converge) the nearly parallel light rays from the sun towards a small spot.
The greater effect a lens has on light rays, the more powerful it is said to be. For example, a powerful converging lens will focus parallel light rays closer to itself and will have a smaller focal length than a weak lens. The light will also focus into a smaller, more intense spot for a more powerful lens. The power P of a lens is defined as the inverse of its focal length. In equation form:
Figure 3 shows the effect of a concave lens on rays of light entering it parallel to its axis (the path taken by ray 2 in the figure is the axis of the lens). The concave lens is a diverging lens, because it causes the light rays to bend away (diverge) from its axis. In this case, the lens is shaped so that all light rays entering it parallel to its axis appear to originate from the same point F, defined as the focal point of a diverging lens. The distance from the center of the lens to the focal point is again called the focal length f of the lens. Note that the focal length and power of a diverging lens are defined as negative. For example, if the distance to F in Figure 3 is 5.00 cm, then the focal length is f=–5.00 cm and the power of the lens is P=–20 D. The expanded view of the path of one ray through the lens illustrates how the shape of the lens (given the law of refraction) causes the ray to follow its particular path and be diverged.
In subsequent sections we will examine the technique of ray tracing to describe the formation of images by lenses. Additionally, we will explore how image locations and characteristics can be quantified with the help of a set of geometric optics equations.