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Newtons Ring

When a plano-convex lens with its convex surface is placed on a plane glass sheet, an air film
of gradually increasing thickness outward is formed between the lens and the sheet. The
thickness of film at the point of contact is zero. If monochromatic light is allowed to fall
normally on the lens, and the film is viewed in reflected light, alternate bright and dark
concentric rings are seen around the point of contact. These rings were first discovered by
Newton, that's why they are called NEWTON'S RINGS .
A ray AB incident normally on the system gets partially reflected at the bottom curved
surface of the lens (Ray 1) and part of the transmitted ray is partially reflected (Ray 2) from
the top surface of the plane glass plate. The rays 1 and 2 are derived from the same incident
ray by division of amplitude and therefore are coherent. Ray 2 undergoes a phase change of
upon reflection since it is reflected from air-to-glass boundary., the fringes being localised
in the air gap between the lens and plate.
If we consider a vertical ray incident on the arrangement then at any point a distance r from
the axis of the lens the path difference will be 2t cos r,
where t is the distance between the lens and the plate at
that point. The interference fringes are circular because the
system is symmetrical about the centre of the lens.
The radius of any ring is given by:
(2R - t)t = r2 so r2 = 2Rt t2
But h2 is small compared with 2Rh and so: 2Rt = r2
he condition for constructive and destructive
for normal incidence cos r = 1 and for air film
= 1.





constructive interference
destructive interference

Central dark spot: At the point of contact of the lens with the glass plate the
thickness of the air film is very small compared to the wavelength of light therefore the path
difference introduced between the interfering waves is zero. Consequently, the interfering
waves at the centre are opposite in phase and interfere destructively. Thus a dark spot is


Circular fringes with equal thickness: Each maximum or minimum is a locus of

constant film thickness. Since the locus of points having the same thickness fall on a circle
having its centre at the point of contact, the fringes are circular.


Fringes are localized: Though the system is illuminated with a parallel beam of light,
the reflected rays are not parallel. They interfere nearer to the top surface of the air film and

appear to diverge from there when viewed from the top. The fringes are seen near the upper
surface of the film and hence are said to be localized in the film.

Radii of the mth dark rings:


Radii of the mth bright ring:

Applications of Newtons Ring

A. Determination of Wavelength of Light
The monochromatic light is made incident on the plano-convex lens and the reflected light is viewed
in travelling microscope. Microscope is adjusted till the circular rings came in focus. Now the
microscope crosswire is focused on the central dark spot and is moved slowly at one side, say right
side. As the cross wire moves in the field of view, dark rings are counted. The movement is stopped
when it reaches at the 22nd dark ring. The cross wire is moved in opposite side and stopped at 20 th dark
ring such that the vertical cross-wire is made tangential to the ring. Thus starting from 20 th the

microscope position is noted down for 18th, 16th, 14th, ..6th ring. The microscope is quickly moved to
the left side of the ring pattern and the positions of microscope is again noted down for 6 th, 8th, 10th,
..20th ring. The diameter of the nth order ring is calculated by subtracting the left and right side
position of the microscope. As we know that the square of diameter of nth dark ring is

Therefore the square of diameter of (n+p)th ring is

Subtracting both the above equation


B. Determination of Refractive Index of liquid

In order to determine the refractive index of liquid the Newtons ring experiment is first performed for
the air medium and the difference in the square of the diameter of (n+p) th and nth dark ring is found as
discussed above.

After this few drops of liquid of refractive index is placed on the glass plate. The plano-convex lens
is then placed on the glass plate, as a result a film of liquid is formed between the lens and the plate.
The difference in the square of the diameter of (n+p)th and nth dark ring is again calculated in the same
manner for the liquid medium.

Dividing equation 2.29 by 2.30, we get