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Name: Stephano
Status: student
Grade: other
Location: LA

What exactly are we seeing in a phase boundary between immiscible liquids?


Picture a common example of a two phase system of immiscible liquids -- oil and vinegar salad dressing. When the bottle has been just sitting for at least several minutes you see the characteristic boundary. The vinegar (a dilute, aqueous solution of acetic acid) is on the bottom. The oil (a hydrocarbon, extremely water-hating -- hydrophobic) on the top. Light in the room passes through each liquid (how else would you see the boundary?). The light does not pass through each liquid at the same rate, and it does not exit at the same angle that it entered. The boundary between the layers results from the difference of the angles of the light exiting the liquids. See Snell's Law in a physics text for a deeper discussion of light in transparent materials.

Warren Young

At the most fundamental level, we see the difference in the speed of light between liquid (1) and liquid (2). This difference forms a meniscus (in the case of a transparent tube) or a "bent" line in the case of an optical path between the two transparent phases, for example a fishing line. This is the most basic observation, however, depending upon the experimental arrangement it may not appear to be "exactly" what we are seeing.

Vince Calder

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