Conical refraction


Also found in: Encyclopedia.
(Opt.) the refraction of a ray of light into an infinite number of rays, forming a hollow cone. This occurs when a ray of light is passed through crystals of some substances, under certain circumstances. Conical refraction is of two kinds; external conical refraction, in which the ray issues from the crystal in the form of a cone, the vertex of which is at the point of emergence; and internal conical refraction, in which the ray is changed into the form of a cone on entering the crystal, from which it issues in the form of a hollow cylinder. This singular phenomenon was first discovered by Sir W. R. Hamilton by mathematical reasoning alone, unaided by experiment.

See also: Refraction