Properties Of Waves: Reflection, Refraction, Diffraction


Welcome to the comprehensive course material on the Properties of Waves, focusing on Reflection, Refraction, and Diffraction. In the study of waves, understanding these properties is crucial as they govern how waves behave when they encounter boundaries, change mediums, or pass through obstacles. By exploring these concepts, we gain insights into how waves interact with their surroundings and how they manifest in real-life situations.

Reflection is a fundamental property of waves where the wavefront returns into the same medium after hitting a boundary at an angle. This phenomenon obeys the law of reflection, which states that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. When a wave reflects off a surface, the direction of propagation changes, leading to various outcomes based on the nature of the surface. For instance, in the case of a smooth mirror-like surface, the reflection is specular, producing clear images, while rough surfaces result in diffuse reflection.

Next, we delve into Refraction, which occurs when a wave changes direction as it passes from one medium to another with a different wave speed. The change in wave speed causes the wavefront to bend, leading to a shift in the wave's direction. This change is governed by Snell's Law, which relates the angles of incidence and refraction to the refractive indices of the two mediums. Understanding refraction enables us to explain phenomena such as the bending of light in lenses and the formation of mirages.

Lastly, we explore the concept of Diffraction, where waves bend around obstacles or spread out after passing through a narrow aperture. Diffraction is a characteristic behavior of waves and occurs when the size of the obstacle or aperture is comparable to the wavelength of the wave. This property allows us to understand how waves can propagate around obstacles and create interference patterns, influencing various fields such as sound engineering and radio wave transmission.

By grasping the principles of reflection, refraction, and diffraction, we can apply these concepts to real-life scenarios, ranging from the design of architectural acoustics to the development of optical devices. Through practical demonstrations using tools like the ripple tank, we can observe how waves interact and exhibit these properties with plane and circular wave patterns. This course material aims to equip you with a deep understanding of wave behavior and its applications in diverse fields.


  1. Demonstrate an understanding of refraction in waves
  2. Understand the concept of reflection in waves
  3. Explain the phenomenon of diffraction in waves
  4. Illustrate the applications of reflection, refraction, and diffraction in real-life situations

Lesson Note

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Lesson Evaluation

Congratulations on completing the lesson on Properties Of Waves: Reflection, Refraction, Diffraction. Now that youve explored the key concepts and ideas, its time to put your knowledge to the test. This section offers a variety of practice questions designed to reinforce your understanding and help you gauge your grasp of the material.

You will encounter a mix of question types, including multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, and essay questions. Each question is thoughtfully crafted to assess different aspects of your knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Use this evaluation section as an opportunity to reinforce your understanding of the topic and to identify any areas where you may need additional study. Don't be discouraged by any challenges you encounter; instead, view them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

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Past Questions

Wondering what past questions for this topic looks like? Here are a number of questions about Properties Of Waves: Reflection, Refraction, Diffraction from previous years

Question 1 Report

(a) State one condition each necessary for the characteristics each of the following occurrences:

(i) Constructive interference of waves.

(ii) Total internal reflection.

(iii) Production of beats.

(b) In a resonance tube experiment using a tuning fork of frequency 256 Hz, the first position of resonance was 35 cm, the next position was 100 cm. Calculate the velocity of sound in air from the experiment.

(c)(i) State the three classifications of musical instalments

(ii) Give one example each of the classifications stated in (c)(i).

(d) Calculate the critical angle for light traveling from glass to air. [refractive index of glass = 1.5].

(e) The speed of sound in a medium at a temperature of 102 °C is 240 m s?1 ? 1 . If the speed of sound in the medium is 3 10 m s?1 ? 1 . Calculate its temperature

Question 1 Report

Which of the following is a type of wave that is both mechanical and longitudinal?

Question 1 Report

A series RLC circuit is said to resonate, when

Practice a number of Properties Of Waves: Reflection, Refraction, Diffraction past questions