A method that utilizes the Fresnel diffraction of light from the phase step formed by a transparent wedge is introduced for measuring the refractive indices of transparent solids, liquids, and solutions. It is shown that, as a transparent wedge of small apex angle is illuminated perpendicular to its surface by a monochromatic parallel beam of light, the Fresnel fringes, caused by abrupt change in refractive index at the wedge lateral boundary, are formed on a screen held perpendicular to the beam propagation direction. The visibility of the fringes varies periodically between zero and 1 in the direction normal to the wedge apex. For a known or measured apex angle, the wedge refractive index is obtained by measuring the period length by a CCD. To measure the refractive index of a transparent liquid or solution, the wedge is installed in a transparent rectangle cell containing the sample. Then, the cell is illuminated perpendicularly and the visibility period is measured. By using modest optics, one can measure the refractive index at a relative uncertainty level of . There is no limitation on the refractive index range. The method can be applied easily with no mechanical manipulation. The measuring apparatus can be very compact with low mechanical and optical noises.
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