Determination of Refractive Index

Determination of Refractive Index.

Procedure :


The refractive index
(n) of a substance with reference to air is the ratio of the sine of the angle
of incidence to the sine of the angle of refraction of a beam of light passing from
air into the substance. 

It varies with the wavelength of the light used in its measurement.

Unless otherwise
specified in the individual monograph, the refractive index, n20D
Is measured at 200 ± 0.50 with reference to the wavelength of the D line
of sodium ( λ= 589.3 nm). 

The temperature should be carefully adjusted and
maintained since the refractive index varies significantly with temperature.

The Abbe refractometer is convenient for most measurements of refractive
index but other refractometers of equal or greater accuracy may be used. 

Commercial refractometers are normally constructed for use with white light but
are calibrated to give the refractive index in terms of the D line of sodium. 

The apparatus is provided with a water jacket to control the temperature of measurements. 

The manufacturer’s instructions relating to a suitable light source should be
followed subject to the directions given in the Pharmacopoeia. 

To achieve accuracy,
the apparatus, should calibrated against distilled water which has a refractive
index of 1.3325 at 250 or against the reference liquids given in the following

Reference Liquid


Temperature coefficient


Carbon tetrachloride










   Refractive index value for
D line of sodium measured at 200


NOTE : The cleanliness of
the instrument should be checked frequently by determining
the refractive index of distilled water. Use 1 to 1.25
mm wall tubing for N.

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