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Ph 214

Fresnel Coefficients

Debroy

To synchronize the recitations and the lecture notes, I am listing the various forms of the Fresnel coefficients along with the
corresponding diagrams. The diagram shows the interface to be
the x-y plane (with the positive x-axis out of the page). The
boundary conditions for the tangential components of the E and
the B fields will be written consistent with that coordinate system.

E0i + E0r
B0i
B0r
cos 1 +
cos 1
1
1

= E0t
=

Figure 1: CASE A

(1)

B0t
cos 2
2

(2)

Now, eliminate the B-field using the subsidiary condition


B=

nE
E
=
v
c

and solve for E0r and E0t in terms of E0i to get


r =

E0r
E0i

n1

cos 1

cos 1 +

= n11

n2
2
n2
2

cos 2
cos 2

sin (2 1 )
sin (2 + 1 )
r
cos 1

r
cos 1 +

(3)

(4)

n22
n21

sin2 1

n22
n21

sin2 1

(5)

where for the last two equations we have set 1 2 1, since that is true for most materials.
Similarly for the transmission coefficient we have (after setting 1 2 1 in the last two equations)
t =

E0t
E0i

2 n11 cos 1
n1
1

cos 1 +

n2
2

cos 2

2 sin 2 cos 1
sin (1 + 2 )
2 cos 1
r
n2
cos 1 + n22 sin2 1
1

(6)

(7)

(8)

Ph 214

Fresnel Coefficients

Debroy

We now look at the case when the E-field is parallel to the plane of incidence.
Based on the figure we
write

E0i cos 1 E0r cos 1

E0t cos 2

B0i
B0r
+
1
1

B0t
2

Figure 2: CASE B

(9)
(10)

Now, eliminate the B-field using the subsidiary condition


E
nE
=
v
c

B=

and solve for E0r and E0t in terms of E0i to get

rk =

E0r
E0i

n1

cos 2

cos 2 +

= n11

n2
2
n2
2

cos 1

(11)

cos 1

tan (2 1 )
tan (2 + 1 )

n22
n21
n22
n21

r
cos 1
r
cos 1 +

n22
n21
n22
n21

(12)

sin2 1
(13)
2

sin 1

once again 1 2 1 in the last two equations


Similarly for the transmission coefficient we have (after setting 1 2 1 in the last two equations)

tk =

E0t
E0i

2 n11 cos 1
n1
1

cos 2 +

n2
2

cos 1

(14)

2 sin 2 cos 1
sin (2 + 1 ) cos (2 1 )

(15)

2 nn12 cos 1
r
n2
cos 1 + n22 sin2 1

(16)

n22
n21

Ph 214

Fresnel Coefficients

Debroy

For a general electric field we can write it in terms of the parallel and perpendicular components as
+ Ek k
~ = E
E
and hence get the total reflection and transmission coefficients.
Special Cases
1. Normal Incidence: Set 1 = 2 0
2. Optically rarer to optically denser medium:
Since n2 > n1 , we get 2 < 1 . Verify using Eqn(4) and Eqn(12) that both the reflection coefficients
are positive which implies that the E-fields are like in the diagrams (i.e there is a phase difference
between the reflected and the incident fields. This happens for all angles.
3. Grazing Incidence:
Use 1 = /2 in Eqn (3) and Eqn(11) to show that the reflection coefficient is about unity. That means
we get a very strong reflection irrespective of the index of refraction.
4. Brewsters Angle
When the angle between the reflected ray and the transmitted ray is /2 we have 1 + 2 = /2 and
using Eqn (12) we see that rk is zero while Eqn(4) tells us r is finite. No reflection amplitude for the
E-field in the plane of the incidence.
5. Critical Angle:
At the critical angle 2 = /2 and sin 1 = n2 /n1 . Check that R = 1 and T = 0 in that case. Use the
definition in the class notes for
R = r2


n2 cos 2
2
T =t
n1 cos 1
6. Incident angle greater than critical angle:
In that case sin 1 > n2 /n1 and 2 is undefined. Check that the reflection coefficient r is complex and
is of the form
A + iB
r=
A iB
which will again give R = rr = 1 (all the energy is reflected back). You will not be able to get
an exlicit form of T since the transmitted angle is not defined.