Absolute air refractive index measurement and tracking based on variable length vacuum cell

Xiangzhi Yu, Tieli Zhang, Jonathan D. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A refractometer system using four modified Wu-type heterodyne interferometers with a variable length vacuum cell is presented. The proposed system has two working modes: (1) a moving mode for measuring the absolute air refractive index at the start of a measurement and (2) a static mode for monitoring the air refractive index fluctuation with the same bandwidth as a traditional displacement interferometer. The system requires no gas filling or pumping during the measurement and can be used for real-time refractive index compensation. Comparison experiments with empirical equations are conducted to investigate the feasibility and performance of the proposed system. The standard deviation of the measurement difference between the proposed system and empirical equation is 2.8 parts in 107, which is close to the uncertainty of our refractive index reference based on the accuracy of the environmental sensors. The relative refractive index tracking is a few parts in 108 with a bandwidth of 10 Hz, but high bandwidths are readily achievable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064112
JournalOptical Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • air refractive index
  • interferometry
  • optical instruments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering(all)


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