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Learning objects Optics and prisms: materials

TLF ID L1481

Position a prism to split white light into its component colours. Test whether the colours seen are affected by the prism material: glass, flint glass or diamond. Explain why dispersion occurs in all of the prism materials. This learning object is one in a series of three objects. The series is also packaged as a combined learning object.

Educational details

Key learning objectives
  • Students use a triangular prism to split white light into the visible spectrum.
  • Students explain the dispersion of white light by referring to its composition and differential refraction of colours.
  • Students compare the dispersion produced by prisms of different materials.
Educational value
  • Introduces the principles of refraction, dispersion and total internal refraction of light.
  • Students engage with a simulation of white light dispersing as it passes through a triangular prism.
  • Students manipulate the position, orientation, composition, size and shape of prisms to observe how these affect light rays.
  • Students choose between two hypotheses.
  • The simulation is accessible for further investigation after feedback has been given.
Year level


Learning area
  • science
  • Science/Science understanding
    • Science/Light
    • Science/Refraction
    • Analysis;
    • Application;
    • Comprehension;
    • Knowledge
    Student activity
    • Interactives;
    • Experiment;
    • Analysis;
    • Modelling
    Learning design
    • Experiential learning;
    • Independent learning;
    • Problem solving;
    • Visual learning

    Other details

    • Script writer
    • Name: Erica Dale
    • Organisation: Tungaroo Software
    • Address: Sydney NSW Australia
    • Subject matter expert
    • Name: Graham Coghill
    • Address: Marcus Beach QLD Australia
    • Technical implementer
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    Access profile
    • Hearing independence
    Learning resource type
    • Interactive Resource
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS Windows)
    • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
    • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
    Operating systems
    • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
    • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
    • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.