6A40.60 - Schlieren Optics

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Schlieren Optics
Index of Refreaction
Area of Study:
Optics, Astronomy
Large mounted telescope mirror, I-pad on aluminum stand with HDMI adaptor, magnetic flashlight stand, LED flashlight with aluminum foil pinhole mask, matches, grill lighter, lab jack, small plastic beakers for hot water.

Place the mirror appoximately 2 meters from the I-pad camera lens.  (There is a string attached to the mirror that will allow you to easily start with the proper 2 meter distance).  You can carefully move the I-pad back and forth so that the mirror image completely fill the camera lens aperture.  Set the I-pad to maximum zoom, focus, and then adjust the brightness until the image on the mirror shows good index of refraction phenomenon.  The simplest way to get this adjustment right is to put a cup of hot water in front of the mirror and the adjust for maximum contrast.  Hot water, your hand, a lit match, a lit grill lighter, an unlit grill lighter showing the gas discharge, ice cubes, a bit of CO2, your breath, will all show very good Schlieren effects.  

  • Maron Vavrik, Gergely Peter Vari, Peter Jenei, "The Simplest Schlieren Imaging Using a Smartphone", TPT, Vol. 61, #9, Dec. 2023, p. 804.
  • Gearhart and MacIsaac, A Practical Classroom iPad Shadowgraph System, TPT, Vol. 58, #8, Nov. 2020, p. 8.
  • Greenslade, The Foley Acoustic Wave Front Slides, TPT, Vol. 42, #4, Apr. 2004, p. 231.
  • Geisert, A Single Mirror Schlieren Optical System, AJP, Vol. 52, #5, May 1984, p. 467.
  • Mitra, Chaskar and Phadke, Design and Fabrication of a Simple Schlierenscope, AJP, Vol. 49, #2, Feb. 1981, p. 158.
  • Joseph G. Connor, Jr., "Schlieren Recording System", AJP, Vol. 38, #3, March 1970, p. 385.
  • Victor A. Miller, Keith T. Loebner, "Smartphone Schlieren", Physics.ed-ph, Sept. 13, 2016.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.