Thermal opalescence in crystals and the colour of ice in glaciers

Raman, C. V. (1923) Thermal opalescence in crystals and the colour of ice in glaciers Nature, 111 (2775). pp. 13-14. ISSN 0028-0836

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In a previous communication to Nature (vol. 109, page 42) it was pointed out that the thermal agitation of the atoms in crystals causes optical heterogeneity which should give rise to a noticeable scattering when a beam of light is sent through the substance, and that this effect may actually be observed with suitable arrangements in clear quartz or rock-salt. I have recently found that the same phenomenon is conspicuously exhibited by ice. If a block of clear ice, free from air-bubbles, striae, or other obvious inclusions, and having flat sides, be held squarely and a narrow pencil of sunlight concentrated by a lens be passed through it, the track of the pencil shows a beautiful blue opalescence. It is advisable not to use a very highly-condensed cone of rays, as this would cause internal melting of the ice with formation of cavities which reflect white light and distract the eye. A dark background should be provided against which the track may be viewed. With small or irregular lumps of ice, the observation may easily be made by immersing the ice in clear distilled water contained in a glass flask which is painted black outside, windows being provided for ingress and egress of light and for observation of the opalescent track. Even with ice which at first looks unpromising owing to internal flaws or inclusions, portions in which the blue opalescence is not overpowered by disturbing effects may be picked out. A suitable orientation of the block with reference to the direction of the incident rays is often useful in avoiding reflections from cavities in the ice.

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