NCERT Class 12 Physics Wave Optics

Read and download NCERT Class 12 Physics Wave Optics chapter in NCERT book for Class 12 Physics. You can download latest NCERT eBooks for 2022 chapter wise in PDF format free from This Physics textbook for Class 12 is designed by NCERT and is very useful for students. Please also refer to the NCERT solutions for Class 12 Physics to understand the answers of the exercise questions given at the end of this chapter

Wave Optics Class 12 Physics NCERT

Class 12 Physics students should refer to the following NCERT Book chapter Wave Optics in standard 12. This NCERT Book for Grade 12 Physics will be very useful for exams and help you to score good marks

Wave Optics NCERT Class 12


Chapter Ten



In 1637 Descartes gave the corpuscular model of light and derived Snell’s law. It explained the laws of reflection and refraction of light at an interface. The corpuscular model predicted that if the ray of light (on refraction) bends towards the normal then the speed of light would be greater in the second medium. This corpuscular model of light was further developed by Isaac Newton in his famous book entitled OPTICKS and because of the tremendous popularity of this book, the corpuscular model is very often attributed to Newton.

In 1678, the Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens put forward the wave theory of light – it is this wave model of light that we will discuss in this chapter. As we will see, the wave model could satisfactorily explain the phenomena of reflection and refraction; however, it predicted that on refraction if the wave bends towards the normal then the speed of light would be less in the second medium. This is in contradiction to the prediction made by using the corpuscular model of light. It was much later confirmed by experiments where it was shown that the speed of light in water is less than the speed in air confirming the prediction of the wave model; Foucault carried out this experiment in 1850.

The wave theory was not readily accepted primarily because of Newton’s authority and also because light could travel through vacuum and it was felt that a wave would always require a medium to propagate from one point to the other. However, when Thomas Young performed his famous interference experiment in 1801, it was firmly established that light is indeed a wave phenomenon. The wavelength of visible light was measured and found to be extremely small; for example, the wavelength of yellow light is about 0.5 μm. Because of the smallness of the wavelength of visible light (in comparison to the dimensions of typical mirrors and lenses), light can be assumed to approximately travel in straight lines. This is the field of geometrical optics, which we had discussed in the previous chapter. Indeed, the branch of optics in which one completely neglects the finiteness of the wavelength is called geometrical optics and a ray is defined as the path of energy propagation in the limit of wavelength tending to zero.


We would first define a wavefront: when we drop a small stone on a calm pool of water, waves spread out from the point of impact. Every point onthe surface starts oscillating with time. At any instant, a photograph ofthe surface would show circular rings on which the disturbance is maximum. Clearly, all points on such a circle are oscillating in phase because they are at the same distance from the source. Such a locus of points, which oscillate in phase is called a wavefront; thus a wavefront is defined as a surface of constant phase. The speed with which the wavefront moves outwards from the source is called the speed of the wave. The energy of the wave travels in a direction perpendicular to the wavefront.

If we have a point source emitting waves uniformly in all directions, then the locus of points which have the same amplitude and vibrate in the same phase are spheres and we have what is known as a spherical wave as shown in Fig. 10.1(a). At a large distance from the source, a  small portion of the sphere can be considered as a plane and we have what is known as a plane wave [Fig. 10.1(b)].Now, if we know the shape of the wavefront at t = 0, then Huygens principle allows us to determine the shape of the wavefront at a later time τ. Thus, Huygens principle is essentially a geometrical construction, which given the shape of the wafefront at any time allows us to determine the shape of the wavefront at a later time. Let us consider a diverging wave and let F1F2 represent a portion of the spherical wavefront at t = 0 (Fig. 10.2). Now, according to Huygens principle, each point of the wavefront is the source of a secondary disturbance and the wavelets emanating from these points spread out in all directions with the speed of the wave. These wavelets emanating from the wavefront are usuallyreferred to as secondary wavelets and if we draw a common tangent  to all these spheres, we obtain the new position of the wavefront at alater time.


10.3.1 Refraction of a plane wave

We will now use Huygens principle to derive the laws of refraction. Let PP′ represent the surface separating medium 1 and medium 2, as shown in Fig. 10.4. Let v1 and v2 represent the speed of light in medium 1 and medium 2, respectively. We assume a plane wavefront AB propagating in the direction A′A incident on the interface at an angle i as shown in the figure. Let τ be the time taken by the wavefront to travel the distance BC. 


10.1 Monochromatic light of wavelength 589 nm is incident from air on a water surface. What are the wavelength, frequency and speed of

(a) reflected, and (b) refracted light? Refractive index of water is 1.33. 10.2 What is the shape of the wavefront in each of the following cases:

(a) Light diverging from a point source.

(b) Light emerging out of a convex lens when a point source is placed at its focus.

(c) The portion of the wavefront of light from a distant star intercepted by the Earth.

10.3 (a) The refractive index of glass is 1.5. What is the speed of light in glass? (Speed of light in vacuum is 3.0 × 108 m s–1)

        (b) Is the speed of light in glass independent of the colour of light? If not, which of the two colours red and violet travels slower in a glass prism?

10.4 In a Young’s double-slit experiment, the slits are separated by 0.28 mm and the screen is placed 1.4 m away. The distance between the central bright fringe and the fourth bright fringe is measured to be 1.2 cm. Determine the wavelength of light used in the experiment.

10.5 In Young’s double-slit experiment using monochromatic light of wavelength λ, the intensity of light at a point on the screen where path difference is λ, is K units. What is the intensity of light at a point where path difference is λ/3?

10.6 A beam of light consisting of two wavelengths, 650 nm and 520 nm, is used to obtain interference fringes in a Young’s double-slit experiment.

(a) Find the distance of the third bright fringe on the screen from the central maximum for wavelength 650 nm.

(b) What is the least distance from the central maximum where the bright fringes due to both the wavelengths coincide?

10.7 In a double-slit experiment the angular width of a fringe is found to be 0.2° on a screen placed 1 m away. The wavelength of light used is

600 nm. What will be the angular width of the fringe if the entire experimental apparatus is immersed in water? Take refractive index of water to be 4/3. 10.8 What is the Brewster angle for air to glass transition? (Refractive index of glass = 1.5.)

10.9 Light of wavelength 5000 Å falls on a plane reflecting surface. What are the wavelength and frequency of the reflected light? For what angle of incidence is the reflected ray normal to the incident ray?

10.10 Estimate the distance for which ray optics is good approximation for an aperture of 4 mm and wavelength 400 nm.

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Chapter 1 Electric Charges and Fields
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Chapter 2 Electrostatic Potential and Capacitance
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Chapter 3 Current Electricity
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Chapter 4 Moving Charges and Magnetism
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Chapter 5 Magnetism and Matter
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Chapter 6 Electromagnetic Induction
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Chapter 7 Alternating Current
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Chapter 8 Electromagnetic Waves
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Chapter 9 Ray Optics and Optical Instruments
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Chapter 10 Wave Optics
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Chapter 11 Dual Nature of Radiation and Matter
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Chapter 12 Atoms
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Chapter 13 Nuclei
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Chapter 14 Semiconductor Electronics Materials Devices and Simple Circuits
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Chapter 15 Communication Systems
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Part I Answers and Solutions
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Part II Answers and Solutions
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Part II Appendix
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Part II BiblioGraphy
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