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Refractive Index for some common Liquids, Solids and Gases

Some common fluids and their refractive index

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Refraction is an effect that occurs between transparent materials of different densities.

The Refractive Index  - n - of a medium is a measure for how much the velocity of light is reduced inside the medium. The velocity of light in a medium can be expressed as

v  = c / n                                          (1)


v = velocity of light in the medium (m/s, ft/s)

c = speed of light in air or vacuum - approximately 3 108 m/s (or 299792458 m/s)

n = refractive index

The index of refraction is defined as

  • "the speed of light in vacuum divided by the speed of light in the medium".

Index of Refraction for Vacuum

  • n = 1.00

Refractive Indices for some common Gases

GasRefractive Index
- n -
Acetone 1.001090
Air 1.000293
Alcohol, ethyl 1.000878
Alcohol, methyl 1.000586
Ammonia 1.000376
Argon 1.000281
Benzene 1.001762
Bromine 1.001132
Carbon dioxide 1.000449
Carbon disulphide 1.001481
Carbon monoxide 1.000338
Chlorine 1.000773
Chloroform 1.001450
Ether, ethyl 1.001533
Ether, methyl 1.000891
Helium 1.000035
Hydrochloric acid 1.000447
Hydrogen 1.000132
Methane 1.000444
Nitric oxide 1.000297
Nitrogen 1.000298
Nitrous oxide 1.000516
Oxygen 1.000271
Pentane 1.000686
Sulphur dioxide 1.000686
Water vapor 1.000261

Index of Refraction for common Liquids

FluidRefractive Index
- n -
Acetic Acid 1.37
Acetone 1.36
Alcohol, ethyl (ethanol) 1.36
Alcohol, methyl (methanol) 1.33
Alcohol, propyl 1.38
Aniline 1.586
Benzene 1.501
Benzyl benzoate 1.568
Carbon disulfide 1.63
Carbon tetrachloride 1.46
Chlorobenzene 1.525
Chloroform 1.44
Decane 1.41
Dodecane 1.41
Ether 1.35
Ethylene glycol 1.43
Ethyl salicylate 1.523
Ethyl cinnamate 1.559
Trichlorofluoromethane refrigerant R-11 1.37
Dichlorodifluoromethanerefrigerant R-12 1.29
Chlorodifluoromethane refrigerant R-22 1.26
Furan 1.47
Glyserine (Glycerol) 1.47
Heptane 1.38
Hexane 1.37
Methyl salicylate 1.538
Methylene iodine 1.737
Milk 1.35
Octane 1.40
Oil, cedar 1.516
Oil, vegetable 50oC 1.47
Oil, oiive 1.46
Oil, turpentine 1.47
Paraldehyde 1.405
Parafin, liquid 1.48
Propane 1.34
Propylene 1.36
Propylene glycol 1.43
Quinoline 1.627
Toluene 1.497
Turpentine (wood) 1.47
Water 1.333

Example - Speed of Light in Air

The speed of light in air can be calculated as

v  = (299792458 m/s) / 1.000293

    = 299704645 m/s

Example - Speed of Light in Water

The approximate speed of light in water can be calculated as

v  = (3 108 m/s) / 1.33

    = 2.26 108 m/s

Index of Refraction for some common Solids

SolidRefractive Index
- n -
Crown glass 1.5 - 1.62
Diamond 2.417
Flint glass 1.57 - 1.75
Ice 1.31
Plexiglas 1.49
Polystyrene 1.59
Salt 1.52

Example - Speed of Light in Glass

The approximate speed of light in glass can be calculated as

v  = (3 108 m/s) / 1.6

    = 1.88 108 m/s

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  • en: refractive index fluids liquids gases solids
  • es: fluidos de índice de refracción de gases de los líquidos de sólidos
  • de: Brechungsindex-Flüssigkeiten Flüssigkeiten Gase Feststoffe
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