Bill Neuberg , Shamrock Technologies Chairman and Technical Director01.23.17
Identification of particles is routinely done by specialists in polarizing light microscopy. This science is otherwise known as optical crystallography.
To distinguish one known particle from another known particle, we can take a simple approach that doesn’t require polarized light, just a good microscope that can be purchased on eBay for under a thousand dollars, perhaps much under. This and some reference liquids of known refractive index allow you to determine the index of the particle.
The index of refraction of a material is defined by the speed of light in vacuum, c, divided by the speed of light through the material, v. This results in an index of 1.333 for water. If you used v divided by c, it would show that light travels through water at 75% the speed in a vacuum.
There are published tables for the refractive index of many liquids. To find the refractive index of a solid, you need to make it disappear by immersing it in a liquid of known index. To do this with
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