Energy can be transferred as both a particle and a wave.

3. Behaviours of light

3.1. Lenses


The tiny object on this man’s finger is life-changing for him. It lets him see clearly without wearing glasses. You probably recognize the object as a contact lens. You may even wear contact lenses yourself.

What Is a Lens?

lens is a transparent object with one or two curved surfaces. It is typically made of glass (or clear plastic in the case of a contact lens). A lens refracts, or bends, light and forms an image. An image is a copy of an objected formed by the refraction (or reflection) of visible light. The more curved the surface of a lens is, the more it refracts the light that passes through it. There are two basic types of lenses: concave and convex. The two types of lenses have different shapes, so they bend light and form images in different ways.

Concave Lens

A concave lens is thicker at the edges than it is in the middle. You can see the shape of a concave lens in the Figure below. From the diagram, it’s clear that the lens causes rays of light to diverge, or spread apart, as they pass through it. Note that the image formed by a concave lens is on the same side of the lens as the object. It is also smaller than the object and right-side up. However, it isn’t a real image. It is a virtual image. Your brain “tricks” you into seeing an image there. The light rays actually pass through the glass to the other side and spread out in all directions. You can explore the formation of images by a concave lens at this URL:

Concave lens

Convex Lens

A convex lens is thicker in the middle than at the edges. You can see the shape of a convex lens in the Figure below. A convex lens causes rays of light to converge, or meet, at a point called the focus (F). A convex lens forms either a real or virtual image. It depends on how close the object is to the lens relative to the focus. You can interact with an animated convex lens at this URL:

Convex lens

Q: An example of a convex lens is a hand lens. Which of the three convex lens diagrams in theFigure above shows how a hand lens makes an image?

A: You’ve probably looked through a hand lens before. If you have, then you know that the image it produces is right-side up. Therefore, the first diagram must show how a hand lens makes an image. It’s the only one that produces a right-side up image.

Try It Out! Convex Lenses

Be very careful not to aim the beam of light into your eyes, or anyone else’s!

  1. Place a magnifying glass in front of a beam of light from a flashlight. Aim the beam towards a blank wall, then move the magnifying glass back and forth until you produce a small bright point of light on the wall. Why did this happen?

  1. Now use the magnifying glass to look at the fine details of a postage stamp or some other very small picture. Place the magnifying glass between your eye and the stamp, but as close to your eye as you can and still see a clear image. How does the image of the stamp appear?

  1. Next, slowly move the magnifying glass away from your face until you can no longer see an image through the glass. Where do you think your eyes are located relative to the glass? Hint: remember what you learned with mirrors.

  1. Predict what you will see if you move the magnifying glass further away than in question 3. Test your prediction. What do you notice about the position of the image?

  1. How are concave mirrors and convex lenses:

    1. similar?

    2. different?

  1. Complete the chart.

    Position of object from lens

    Size of image

    Orientation of image

    more than two focal lengths away



    from one to two focal lengths away



    less than one focal length away




The convex lens:

  • makes light rays converge to a focal point

  • produces no image when an object is at the focal point

  • orientation (erect or inverted) and size of image varies with the distance between the object and the lens


  • A lens is a transparent object, typically made of glass, with one or two curved surfaces. A lens refracts light and forms an image.
  • A concave lens is thicker at the edges than it is in the middle. This causes rays of light to diverge. The light forms a virtual image that is right-side up and smaller than the object.
  • A convex lens is thicker in the middle than at the edges. This causes rays of light to converge. The light forms a real or virtual image depending on the distance of the object from the lens.