Can White Light Be Separated?

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Updated on Mar 26, 2014

Grade Level: 3rd - 5th; Type: Physical Science


Find out whether white light can be separated into different colors. This will also simulate how natural rainbows are made.

Research Questions:

  • Why does a prism create a rainbow from white light?
  • What are the colors of the rainbow?
  • How do you think a natural rainbow is created?

The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen by the human eye. It consists of seven spectral colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan/indigo, blue, and violet. These colors are what you observe when you see a rainbow. These colors each have different frequencies and wavelengths; red having the longest wavelength and violet having the shortest.


  • Flashlight with white light bulb
  • A piece of cardboard opaque enough to block light
  • Hole punch
  • A glass prism (can be obtained at a science store)
  • Paper nd pencil

Experimental Procedure

  1. Punch a hole in the cardboard.
  2. Place the prism on a flat surface.
  3. This experiment will look best when done in the dark or under dim lights. Turn on your flashlight and shine it on the cardboard through the hole and direct it at the prism. What do you see?
  4. Now place a second prism in front, but at a slightly different angle than the first one. What happens?

Terms/Concepts: Visible spectrum; Electromagnetic spectrum; A few glass or plastic prisms; White light



Hecht, Eugene (2001). Optics (4th ed.). Pearson Education. ISBN 0-8053-8566-5

Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.

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