Mirage Simulation: An Investigation into Thermal Refraction
The objective of this experiment is to test and refine a model for the continuous refraction of light through a homogenous medium with a temperature gradient to simulate the effects of a mirage. To quantize the physics of mirages and compare with theoretical modelling, a thermal gradient was applied vertically across a tank of water and used to refract the beam of a laser pointer over a short (~1 meter) distance into a digital camera. Over the course of 62 minutes the beam’s peak displacement was found to be 10.0 ±0.5 mm through a peak temperature gradient of 0.35 ± 0.05 °C/m, which significantly overshoots the approximate model by 628%. This result demonstrates the expected trend in behavior of light but concludes that the assumption of thermodynamic linearity in the temperature gradient may be inaccurate for modelling the behavior of the system.