Difference Between Reflection And Refraction

The primary difference between reflection and refraction is that reflection occurs when light bounces off a surface in a plane, while refraction is the phenomenon where light changes direction as it passes through a material, leading to its bending.

What is Reflection?

Reflection is when light, sound, heat or an object bounces back to its source without being absorbed. It changes the direction of light when it hits a surface between two materials, sending it back into the original material.

The rule of reflection states:

  • The angle at which light hits a surface is equal to the angle at which it bounces off.
  • The incoming light ray, the outgoing reflected ray, and a line drawn perpendicular to the surface at the point of contact all lie in the same plane.

These principles apply to all kinds of reflecting surfaces.

Types of Reflection

Reflection has two types

Regular Reflection

Regular reflection, also known as specular reflection, occurs when light hits a smooth and polished surface like a mirror and bounces off at the same angle as it approaches.

Irregular Reflection

Irregular reflection, also called diffused reflection, happens when light hits a rough surface and scatters in various directions.

What is Refraction?

Refraction is the phenomenon in which light waves change direction and speed when they pass through the boundary between two substances with different densities. This alteration in the path and velocity of light or radio waves occurs due to the transition from one medium to another.

The refractive index, on the other hand, is a measure of how much the angle of incidence differs from the angle of refraction. It determines the speed of light as it travels through the new medium, where a denser medium causes light to slow down, and a less dense medium allows it to move faster.

Reflection vs Refraction

The basic difference between reflection and refraction is given below:

DescriptionReflection is bouncing back of the light when it strikes to a smooth surface.Refraction is the bending of light rays when it travels from one medium to another medium.
Nature Of SurfaceGenerally occurs on shiny surfaces that only allow rebounding of light without permitting penetration through it.Reflection is bouncing back of the light when it strikes a smooth surface.
TypesIn refraction, the angle of reflection and angle of incidence are not the same.There is only a single form of refraction.
OccurrenceOccurs in mirrors.Occurs in lenses.
Behavior Of LightIn this process, light bounces back and returns back in the same direction.In this process, light changes path, i.e., travels from one medium to another medium.
Speed Of LightThe speed of light varies with the medium in which the ray undergoes bending.When a light ray strikes the boundary of a shiny surface, the speed of the light ray does not vary.
Medium Of Light PropagationThe medium in which the light propagates remains the same.The medium of propagation gets changed.
Angle of Reflection And Angle of IncidenceThe angle of reflection and angle of incidence is the same in the case of reflection.The angle of reflection and angle of incidence are the same in the case of reflection.

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