In physics, there is a phenomenon known as refraction. Refraction is the change in the direction of a wave passing from one medium to another caused by its change in speed. This is why a stick will appear bent when put in water. The device that is used to measure refraction is simply known as a refractometer. A refractometer contains an illuminating prism, light source and a refracting prism. Ernst Abbe of Germany was the first scientist to develop one. To honor him, Refractometers now bear his name. It is important however, to mention that the refractometer has undergone a series of evolution in its processing and manufacture although the underlying mechanism by which it functions remains essentially the same. Modern Refractometers are fitted with a liquid crystal display and this facilitates the reading of the measurements on the device.
It is possible for one to wonder why the refractometer is so important to us. By the time you finish reading the following lines, you will not but agree that it is a very important tool. Refractometers have found wide uses and applications in medical laboratories, histological laboratories, chemical laboratories and physics centers. It is also used by microbiologists, astrophysicists and engineers. This is apart from the fact that it is used in various industries, companies (especially bottling companies), hospitals, processing plants and factories. Refractometers are very important because the measurement of the refractive index has a lot of uses. For example, by using an Abbe Refractometer, it is easy to detect if honey is good or spoilt. Apart from this, the refractometer is indispensable in agriculture, clinical research, wildlife management, pharmacology, food processing, hydrology and advanced physics.
The refractometer also comes with other benefits and advantages. For example, you may want to measure the salinity of that lovely saltwater aquarium that you just bought. In such a case, a refractometer comes in handy. Also, you may want to measure the salt and electrolyte composition of the bottled spring water that you just drank. Perhaps you may want to know whether it contains enough sodium, calcium or potassium, once again you make use of your refractometer. The good thing is that you do not have to carry bulky devices around anytime you want to drink spring water! There are portable, pocket-sized and hand-held Refractometers for personal use. It is very clear that this device is quite useful.
Although it was Abbe that started the production of the Refractometers, some other companies have also taken part in the production of this wonderful tool of science. Some of them are: ATAGO, Reichert, Brix, ERMA, Bellingham & Stanley, American Optical and Schmidt-Haensch of Germany. Oh, I almost forgot, I am thinking of buying a saltwater aquarium, don’t you think I need a refractometer?