Optical fibers transmit light signals and are widely used in the telecommunications industry to transmit data over long distances. Light travels through the core material of an optical fiber by essentially repeatedly bouncing off the cladding material that surrounds the core. Understanding refraction and how light behaves at the boundary of two different materials is the basis for understanding how fiber optic lines work. In particular, total internal reflection occurs when light travels in a material with a higher index of refraction toward a material with a lower index of refraction and the angle of incidence is greater than the critical angle. In this lesson, students investigate through experimentation, discussion, and video the phenomenon of total internal reflection and its relationship to fiber optics. Students also watch a video about dispersion and discuss the implications for fiber optics. Note: This is the second of two optics lesson plans. You may want to precede this lesson with The Index of Refraction Lesson Plan.
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