6D30.10 - Thin Film Interference - Newton's Rings

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Thin Film Interference - Newton's Rings
Thin Film Interference
Area of Study:
Newton's Rings Unit, Newton's Rings (Overhead Model), Fluorescent Light (if needed), Video Camera, and Power Supply.

The Newton's Ring unit (Brass) is the traditional way Newton's rings are produced.  This unit may be passed around in class if desired.

The overhead Newton's ring unit must be placed in the light path between the overhead projector and the screen.  If it is placed on the overhead projector in the normal fashion no rings will be observed.

An easier and better way to show Newton's rings is to use the two round plates in the same manner as before.  However instead of illuminating with a sodium lamp we use a standard fluorescent light.  You must be looking at the reflection of the fluorescent light in the round plates.  The Newton's rings produced can be easily seen when projected with the aid of a video camera.

The red filter may be added to the camera to view a fairly monochromatic pattern.

A very large Newton's ring may be made by putting a dime in the middle and under the large white Plexiglas plate.  Place the large glass plate onto the white plate and a large Newton's ring pattern should appear when looking at the reflected light of the monitor.  It may be necessary to bend the Plexiglass plate by placing the 500 gram masses at the corners.  You can also move them to other places on the plate to create a larger or more round ring pattern.  

NOTE: Optical flat in this box is also used for 6D30.35.

  • Ronald Newburgh, "Author's Correction: 'Student Difficulties in Analyzing Thin-Film Interference,' Phys. Teach. 47, 227–230 (April 2009)", TPT, Vol. 47, #6, Sept. 2009, p. 328.
  • Ronald Newburgh and Douglass Goodale, "Student Difficulties in Analyzing Thin-Film Interference", TPT, Vol. 47, #4, Apr. 2009, p. 227. 
  • Vincent Mallette, "Brilliant Newton's Rings [Phys. Teach. 9(3), 153 (1971)]", TPT, Vol. 41, #3, Mar. 2003, p. 186.
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  • Leslie J. Atkins and Richard C. Elliott, "Investigating Thin Film Interference With a Digital Camera", AJP, Vol. 78, #12, Dec. 2010, p. 1248.
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  • John Henry Pepper, "Colours of thin Plates", Cyclopadic Science Simplified, p. 106.
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  • Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and the staff of the Exploratorium, "Soap-Film Stars", Exploratopia, p. 310.
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  • Joseph Frick, "#189 - Newton's Rings", Physical Technics: Or Practical Instructions for Making Experiments in Physics and the Construction of Physical Apparatus with the Most Limmited Means, p. 219.

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.