Partial transmission and reflection amplitudes of a wave travelling from a low to high refractive index medium.
The Fresnel equations (or Fresnel conditions), deduced by AugustinJean Fresnel , describe the behaviour of light when moving between media of differing refractive indices. The reflection of light that the equations predict is known as Fresnel reflection.
Contents

Overview 1

S and p polarizations 1.1

Power or intensity equations 2

Amplitude or field equations 3

Conventions used here 3.1

Formulas 3.2

Multiple surfaces 4

See also 5

Notes 6

References 7

Further reading 8

External links 9
Overview
When light moves from a medium of a given refractive index n_{1} into a second medium with refractive index n_{2}, both reflection and refraction of the light may occur. The Fresnel equations describe what fraction of the light is reflected and what fraction is refracted (i.e., transmitted). They also describe the phase shift of the reflected light.
The equations assume the interface between the media is flat and that the media are homogeneous. The incident light is assumed to be a plane wave, and effects of edges are neglected.
S and p polarizations
The calculations below depend on polarisation of the incident ray. Two cases are analyzed:

The incident light is polarized with its electric field perpendicular to the plane containing the incident, reflected, and refracted rays. This plane is called the plane of incidence; it is the plane of the diagram below. The light is said to be spolarized, from the German senkrecht (perpendicular).

The incident light is polarized with its electric field parallel to the plane of incidence. Such light is described as ppolarized, from parallel.
Power or intensity equations
Variables used in the Fresnel equations.
In the diagram on the right, an incident light ray IO strikes the interface between two media of refractive indices n_{1} and n_{2} at point O. Part of the ray is reflected as ray OR and part refracted as ray OT. The angles that the incident, reflected and refracted rays make to the normal of the interface are given as θ_{i}, θ_{r} and θ_{t}, respectively.
The relationship between these angles is given by the law of reflection:

\theta_\mathrm{i} = \theta_\mathrm{r},
and Snell's law:

n_1 \sin \theta_\mathrm{i} = n_2 \sin \theta_\mathrm{t}.
The fraction of the incident power that is reflected from the interface is given by the reflectance or reflectivity R and the fraction that is refracted is given by the transmittance or transmissivity T (unrelated to the transmission through a medium).
The reflectance for spolarized light is

R_\mathrm{s} = \left\frac{Z_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}  Z_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}}{Z_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}} + Z_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}}\right^2 = \left\frac{\sqrt{\frac{\mu_2}{\epsilon_2}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}  \sqrt{\frac{\mu_1}{\epsilon_1}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}}{ \sqrt{\frac{\mu_2}{\epsilon_2}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}} + \sqrt{\frac{\mu_1}{\epsilon_1}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}}\right^2,
while the reflectance for ppolarized light is

R_\mathrm{p} = \left\frac{Z_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}  Z_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}{Z_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}} + Z_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}\right^2 = \left\frac{\sqrt{\frac{\mu_2}{\epsilon_2}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}  \sqrt{\frac{\mu_1}{\epsilon_1}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}{ \sqrt{\frac{\mu_2}{\epsilon_2}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}} + \sqrt{\frac{\mu_1}{\epsilon_1}} \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}\right^2,
where Z_{1} and Z_{2} are the wave impedances of media 1 and 2, respectively.
For nonmagnetic media, we have μ_{1} = μ_{2} = μ_{0}, so that

Z_1=\frac{Z_0}{n_1},\ Z_2=\frac{Z_0}{n_2}.
Then, the reflectance for spolarized light becomes

R_\mathrm{s} = \left\frac{n_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}  n_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}}{n_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}} + n_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}}}\right^2 = \left\frac{n_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}  n_2 \sqrt{1\left(\frac{n_1}{n_2} \sin \theta_{\mathrm{i}}\right)^2}}{n_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}} + n_2 \sqrt{1  \left(\frac{n_1}{n_2} \sin \theta_{\mathrm{i}}\right)^2}}\right^2\!,
while the reflectance for ppolarized light becomes

R_\mathrm{p} = \left\frac{n_1\cos\theta_{\mathrm{t}}  n_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}{n_1 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{t}} + n_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}\right^2 = \left\frac{n_1\sqrt{1  \left(\frac{n_1}{n_2} \sin \theta_{\mathrm{i}}\right)^2}  n_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}{n_1 \sqrt{1  \left(\frac{n_1}{n_2} \sin \theta_{\mathrm{i}}\right)^2} + n_2 \cos \theta_{\mathrm{i}}}\right^2\!.
The second form of each equation is derived from the first by eliminating θ_{t} using Snell's law and trigonometric identities.
As a consequence of the conservation of energy, the transmittances are given by

T_\mathrm{s} = 1  R_\mathrm{s}
and

T_\mathrm{p} = 1  R_\mathrm{p}
These relationships hold only for power or intensity, not for complex amplitude transmission and reflection coefficients as defined below.
If the incident light is unpolarised (containing an equal mix of s and ppolarisations), the reflectance is

R = \frac{R_\mathrm{s} + R_\mathrm{p}}{2}.
For common glass, with n_{2} around 1.5, the reflectance at θ_{i} = 0 is about 4%. Note that reflection by a window is from the front side as well as the back side, and that some of the light bounces back and forth a number of times between the two sides. The combined reflectance for this case is 2R/(1 + R), when interference can be neglected (see below).
The discussion given here assumes that the permeability μ is equal to the vacuum permeability μ_{0} in both media, embodying the assumption that the material is nonmagnetic. This is approximately true for most dielectric materials, but not for some other types of material. The completely general Fresnel equations are more complicated.
For lowprecision applications where polarization may be ignored, such as computer graphics, Schlick's approximation may be used.
Special angles
At one particular angle for a given n_{1} and n_{2}, the value of R_{p} goes to zero and a ppolarised incident ray is purely refracted. This angle is known as Brewster's angle, and is around 56° for a glass medium in air or vacuum. Note that this statement is only true when the refractive indices of both materials are real numbers, as is the case for materials like air and glass. For materials that absorb light, like metals and semiconductors, n is complex, and R_{p} does not generally go to zero.
When moving from a denser medium into a less dense one (i.e., n_{1} > n_{2}), above an incidence angle known as the critical angle, all light is reflected and R_{s} = R_{p} =1. This phenomenon is known as total internal reflection. The critical angle is approximately 41° for glass in air.
Amplitude or field equations
Equations for coefficients corresponding to ratios of the electric field complexvalued amplitudes of the waves (not necessarily realvalued magnitudes) are also called "Fresnel equations". These take several different forms, depending on the choice of formalism and sign convention used. The amplitude coefficients are usually represented by lower case r and t.
Amplitude ratios: air to glass
Amplitude ratios: glass to air
Conventions used here
In this treatment, the coefficient r is the ratio of the reflected wave's complex electric field amplitude to that of the incident wave. The coefficient t is the ratio of the transmitted wave's electric field amplitude to that of the incident wave. The light is split into s and p polarizations as defined above. (In the figures to the right, s polarization is denoted "\bot" and p is denoted "\parallel".)
For spolarization, a positive r or t means that the electric fields of the incoming and reflected or transmitted wave are parallel, while negative means antiparallel. For ppolarization, a positive r or t means that the magnetic fields of the waves are parallel, while negative means antiparallel.^{[3]} It is also assumed that the magnetic permeability µ of both media is equal to the permeability of free space µ_{0}.
(Be aware that some authors say instead use the opposite sign convention for r_{p}, so that r_{p} is positive when the incoming and reflected magnetic fields are antiparallel, and negative when they are parallel. This latter convention has the convenient advantage that the s and p sign conventions are the same at normal incidence. However, either convention, when used consistently, gives the right answers.)
Formulas
Using the arbitrary sign conventions above,^{[3]}

r_\mathrm{s} = \frac{n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}  n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t}}{n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i} + n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t}},

t_\mathrm{s} = \frac{2 n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}}{n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i} + n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t}},

r_\mathrm{p} = \frac{n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}  n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t}}{n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t} + n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}},

t_\mathrm{p} = \frac{2 n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}}{n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t} + n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}}.
Notice that t_{s} = 1 + r_{s} but t_{p} ≠ 1 + r_{p}.
Because the reflected and incident waves propagate in the same medium and make the same angle with the normal to the surface, the amplitude reflection coefficient is related to the reflectance R by

R = r^2.
The transmittance T is generally not equal to t^{2}, since the light travels with different direction and speed in the two media. The transmittance is related to t by:

T = \frac{n_2 \cos \theta_\mathrm{t}}{n_1 \cos \theta_\mathrm{i}} t^2.
The factor of n_{2}/n_{1} occurs from the ratio of intensities (closely related to irradiance). The factor of cos θ_{t}/cos θ_{i} represents the change in area m of the pencil of rays, needed since T, the ratio of powers, is equal to the ratio of (intensity × area). In terms of the ratio of refractive indices,

\rho = \frac{n_2}{n_1},
and of the magnification m of the beam cross section occurring at the interface,

T = \rho m t^2.
Multiple surfaces
When light makes multiple reflections between two or more parallel surfaces, the multiple beams of light generally interfere with one another, resulting in net transmission and reflection amplitudes that depend on the light's wavelength. The interference, however, is seen only when the surfaces are at distances comparable to or smaller than the light's coherence length, which for ordinary white light is few micrometers; it can be much larger for light from a laser.
An example of interference between reflections is the iridescent colours seen in a soap bubble or in thin oil films on water. Applications include Fabry–Pérot interferometers, antireflection coatings, and optical filters. A quantitative analysis of these effects is based on the Fresnel equations, but with additional calculations to account for interference.
The transfermatrix method, or the recursive Rouard method^{[7]} can be used to solve multiplesurface problems.
See also
Notes

^ ^{a} ^{b} Lecture notes by Bo Sernelius, main site, see especially Lecture 12.

^ chapt. 4.
References
Further reading





Encyclopaedia of Physics (2nd Edition), R.G. Lerner, G.L. Trigg, VHC publishers, 1991, ISBN (Verlagsgesellschaft) 3527269541, ISBN (VHC Inc.) 0895737523

McGraw Hill Encyclopaedia of Physics (2nd Edition), C.B. Parker, 1994, ISBN 0070514003
External links

Fresnel Equations — Wolfram.

Fresnel equations calculator

FreeSnell — Free software computes the optical properties of multilayer materials.

Thinfilm — Web interface for calculating optical properties of thin films and multilayer materials. (Reflection & transmission coefficients, ellipsometric parameters Psi & Delta.)

Simple web interface for calculating singleinterface reflection and refraction angles and strengths.

Reflection and transmittance for two dielectrics — Mathematica interactive webpage that shows the relations between index of refraction and reflection.

A selfcontained firstprinciples derivation of the transmission and reflection probabilities from a multilayer with complex indices of refraction.
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