Total Internal Reflection

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In this activity, learners use a laser pointer, empty soda bottle, rubber plug and water to demonstrate total internal reflection. Use this simple activity as a demonstration or group activity to explore reflection, refraction, fiber optics, and Snell's Law. This resource contains background information about total internal reflection, the equation for Snell's Law, and refractive indexes as well as links to articles about reflection and refraction of light.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per student

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per student)

  • Laser pointer (preferably green)
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottle (clear)
  • Rubber plug
  • Bucket
  • Water


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering
    • Technology
      • Information and Communication
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Geometry
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Lasers
      • Reflection and Refraction
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Optical Society of America, 2008