# Double Refraction by a Uniaxial Crystal

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Crystalline materials can have different indices of refraction in different crystallographic directions. Crystals belonging to the hexagonal, tetragonal, or rhombohedral classes are *uniaxial*, in that they possess a unique *optical axis, *most often coincident with the crystallographic axis. Light traveling through such an anisotropic medium can exhibit *double refraction* or *birefringence*, in which an unpolarized incident light ray splits into two polarized rays with mutually perpendicular planes of vibration. The ray with its electric field vibrating perpendicular to the optical axis is called the *ordinary* ray, and is characterized by an index of refraction . The ray that vibrates parallel to the optical axis is called the *extraordinary* ray, with its index of refraction designated . The *birefringence* is the difference Δ, which can be positive or negative.

Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (March 2011)

Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

## Snapshots

## Details

Snapshot 1: conventional refraction when and are equal

Snapshot 2: double refraction by a hypothetical crystal with large birefringence

Snapshot 3: same crystal with polarizations shown

## Permanent Citation

"Double Refraction by a Uniaxial Crystal"

http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/DoubleRefractionByAUniaxialCrystal/

Wolfram Demonstrations Project

Published: March 7 2011