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Chapter 3:
Complex Index of Refraction in Optical Materials
Introductory physics classes often provide students with the simple definition of the refractive index as being the ratio of the velocity of light in vacuum to that in a material. This definition works well using Snell’s law to determine how much a light ray bends as it enters a transparent medium. While this is an excellent first step, the understanding of how light interacts with materials begins to expand when a more complete definition of the refractive index is used. This requires the introduction of the complex index of refraction, which includes the earlier definition and adds the extinction coefficient, which describes absorption in a material.
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