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Electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation or EMR) refers to the waves (or their quanta, photons) of

the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space-time, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It

includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.]"

The electromagnetic waves that compose electromagnetic radiation can be imagined as a

self-:propagating transverse oscillating wave of electric and magnetic fields. This diagram shows a plane linearly
polarized EMR wave propagating from left to right (X axis). The electric field is in a vertical plane (Z axis) and the
magnetic field in a horizontal plane (Y axis). The electric and magnetic fields in EMR waves are always in phase
and at 90 degrees to each other.
Classically, electromagnetic radiation consists of electromagnetic waves, which are
synchronized oscillationsof electric and magnetic fields that propagate at the speed of light through a vacuum.
The oscillations of the two fields are perpendicular to each other and perpendicular to the direction of energy and
wave propagation, forming a transverse wave. The wavefront of electromagnetic waves emitted from a point
source (such as a light bulb) is a sphere. The position of an electromagnetic wave within the electromagnetic
spectrum could be characterized by either its frequency of oscillation or its wavelength. The electromagnetic
spectrum includes, in order of increasing frequency and decreasing wavelength: radio waves, microwaves,
infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.
Electromagnetic waves are produced whenever charged particles are accelerated, and these waves can
subsequently interact with other charged particles. EM waves carry energy, momentum and angular
momentum away from their source particle and can impart those quantities to matter with which they
interact. Quanta of EM waves are called photons, whose rest mass is zero. Electromagnetic radiation is associated
with those EM waves that are free to propagate themselves ("radiate") without the continuing influence of the
moving charges that produced them, because they have achieved sufficient distance from those charges. Thus,
EMR is sometimes referred to as the far field. In this language, the near field refers to EM fields near the charges
and current that directly produced them specifically, electromagnetic induction and electrostatic
induction phenomena.
William Herschel discovered infrared radiationand published his results in 1800 before the Royal Society of London. Herschel
used a glass prism to refract light from the Sun and detected invisible rays that caused heating beyond the red part of the
spectrum, through an increase in the temperature recorded with a thermometer. These "calorific rays" were later termed
In 1801, German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter discovered ultraviolet in an experiment similar to Hershel's, using sunlight
and a glass prism. Ritter noted that invisible rays near the violet edge of a solar spectrum dispersed by a triangular prism
darkened silver chloride preparations more quickly than did the nearby violet light. Ritter's experiments were an early
precursor to what would become photography. In 1862 64 James Clerk Maxwell developed equations for the electromagnetic
field which suggested that waves in the field would travel with a speed that was very close to the known speed of light.
Maxwell therefore suggested that visible light (as well as invisible infrared and ultraviolet rays by inference) all consisted of
propagating disturbances (or radiation) in the electromagnetic field. Radio waves were first produced deliberately by Heinrich
Hertz in 1887, using electrical circuits calculated to produce oscillations at a much lower frequency than that of visible light,
following recipes for producing oscillating charges and currents suggested by Maxwell's equations. Hertz also developed ways
to detect these waves, and produced and characterized what were later termed radio waves and microwaves.
Wilhelm Röntgen discovered and named X-rays. After experimenting with high voltages applied to an evacuated tube on 8
November 1895, he noticed a fluorescence on a nearby plate of coated glass. In one month, he discovered X-rays' main
The last portion of the EM spectrum to be discovered was associated with radioactivity. Henri Becquerel found
that uranium salts caused fogging of an unexposed photographic plate through a covering paper in a manner similar to X-
rays, and Marie Curie discovered that only certain elements gave off these rays of energy, soon discovering the intense
radiation of radium. The radiation from pitchblende was differentiated into alpha rays (alpha particles) and beta rays (beta
particles) by Ernest Rutherford through simple experimentation in 1899, but these proved to be charged particulate types of
radiation. However, in 1900 the French scientist Paul Villard discovered a third neutrally charged and especially penetrating
type of radiation from radium, and after he described it, Rutherford realized it must be yet a third type of radiation, which in
1903 Rutherford named gamma rays. In 1910 British physicist William Henry Bragg demonstrated that gamma rays are
electromagnetic radiation, not particles, and in 1914 Rutherford and Edward Andrade measured their wavelengths, finding
that they were similar to X-rays but with shorter wavelengths and higher frequency, although a 'cross-over' between X and
gamma rays makes it possible to have X-rays with a higher energy (and hence shorter wavelength) than gamma rays and vice
versa. The origin of the ray differentiates them, gamma rays tend to be a natural phenomena originating from the unstable
nucleus of an atom and X-rays are electrically generated (and hence man-made) unless they are as a result
of bremsstrahlung X-radiation caused by the interaction of fast moving particles (such as beta particles) colliding with certain
materials, usually of higher atomic numbers.


Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the human eye. The portion of the
electromagnetic spectrum which is sensed by our human eye having wavelength in the range between 450nm and

What is Light Made of?

Light shows two types of nature. It shows particle nature and it also shows the wave nature. According to the theory
of electromagnetic radiation, each wave consists of two types of field, i.e; electric field and the magnetic
field. According to the particle theory of light, light is composed of particles and these particles are termed as
photons. Light consists of group of particles and each particle is termed as a photon and each photon has some
energy associated with it which depends on the frequency of light.According to wave theory of light it is basically a
wave, composed of perpendicular magnetic and electric fields. Each wave has its associated wavelength,
frequency and energy.

Properties of Light

1. Speed of Light : Light travels in the form of straight line. Light travels with constant speed in the vacuum
and this constant speed is equal to the c = 2.9979245×108  m/ s. This is approximately taken as 3×108 m/s
2. Reflection: The basic is meaning of a reflection is something returned in response". When the light
reflected from the medium or the surface, the angle of reflection depends only on the angle of incidence to
the surface. According to the law of reflection, the angle of reflected wave reflected from the surface is
always equal to the angle of incidence.
3. Superposition: If in the space multiple light waves are present then at a particular point in the space the
resultant electric field would be the vector sum of the all the electric fields present at that point. This is the
law of superposition. As light consists of electric and magnetic field, the law of superposition is followed by
both electric and magnetic fields and we get the resultant magnetic and electric fields at that point. 
4. Refraction: When light passes through a substance or medium, light gets bend on the basis of the
wavelength or frequency. This phenomenon is termed as the Refraction. It follows Snells Law of
5. Light Transmittance : When light falls on a substance, some of the light energy gets refracted, some gets
refracted, and some gets absorbed by the substance. Light transmittance is defined as the fraction of
incident light on the substance which passes through the substance at a particular frequency or
wavelength. Light transmittance is defined as the ratio of the intensity of the Incident light on the substance
to the intensity of light which passes through the substance or comes out from the substance.   
6. Wavelength: Wavelength of Light is defined as the distance between the two consecutive crests or
between two consecutive troughs. Wavelength of the light ranges from 380nm to 750nm. In the
electromagnetic spectrum, Infrared rays has higher wavelength than the visible rays and the ultraviolet rays
has smaller wavelength as compared to the light. 
7. Frequency: Frequency of light is defined as the number of crests which passes through a particular point
in a second. It is represented in hertz. Frequency of waves is inversely proportional to their wavelength,
which means that higher the wavelength, lower is the frequency and vice versa. The frequency range of the
light is between 400 to 790 THz.
8. Colors in light: Light consist of different types of colors. These colors are differentiated on the basis of
their wavelengths in the visible spectrum . For example, when visible white light is made to pass through
the prism, the different colors present in the visible white light bend at different angles depending on their
wavelengths and as a result different colors of light are observed. The colors present in the light are Red,
orange, yellow, green, and cyan, blue, violet.

Wave Properties

The wave concept of light was proposed by Christian Huygens in  1679. According to this theory every point on the
luminous body act as a source of disturbance. This disturbance is transferred from one point to another in the
hypothetical medium called ether. Light as a wave has following properties

 Amplitude: It tells about what's the height of a wave from peak to end. It is expressed in meters (m).
 Wavelength: It is the distance between two adjacent crests or troughs which is expressed in meters (m).
 Period: The time taken by one complete wave cycle to pass a given point. It is expressed in seconds (s).
 Frequency: It is inverse of time period which tells about the number of complete waves passing a point in
one second. It is expressed in Hertz (Hz).
 Speed: The speed with which a wave propagates through a given point in horizontal direction and is
expressed in meter per second (m/s)
 Propagation rate: It gives the phase change rate. If the wave undergoes the phase change of 2 π, the
phase change is given by 

Phase change = 2πλWhere λ is the wavelength.

Different properties of light like reflection, refraction, scattering, absorption are shown in the Figure below

Light as Energy
Light shows both types of behaviors, particle nature as well as the wave nature. According to the particle nature of
the light, light consists of particles termed as the photons. 

Energy of the light is given by the formula,

E= hcλ


       E = Energy of the light wave,        h = Planck’s constant,        λ = wavelength of the wave 

       c = speed of the light

As light consist of photons, it exerts pressure or force on the particles which comes in its path. For example
ultraviolet rays are used in the photoelectric effect to eject the electrons from the substances. When rays fall on the
substances, photons transfer their energy to the electrons; electrons gain energy and come out from their orbits.
Pressure exerted by the light is given as the Power of light divided by the speed of the light.

Light as a energy is also used to heat the substances : When an electron in the excited state in the higher orbit
comes to the lower orbit energy is emitted in the form of photons. Due to the transition of electron from the higher
orbit to the lower orbit, one photon energy is emitted. 

Photometry is the science of the measurement of light, in terms of its perceived brightness to the human eye. It is

distinct from radiometry, which is the science of measurement of radiant energy (including light) in terms of
absolute power

The human eye is not equally sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light. Photometry attempts to account for this
by weighing the measured power at each wavelength with a factor that represents how sensitive the eye is at that
wavelength. The standardized model of the eye's response to light as a function of wavelength is given by the
luminosity function. The eye has different responses as a function of wavelength when it is adapted to light
conditions (photopic vision) and dark conditions (scotopic vision). Photometry is typically based on the eye's
photopic response, and so photometric measurements may not accurately indicate the perceived brightness of
sources in dim lighting conditions where colors are not discernible, such as under just moonlight or starlight.
 Photopic vision is characteristic of the eye's response at luminance levels over three candela per square metre.
Scotopic vision occurs below 2 × 10−5 cd/m2. Mesopic vision occurs between these limits and is not well
characterised for spectral response.[1]
Luminous intensity;

Luminous intensity is defined as the amount of luminous flux emitted by a source per unit solid angle Ω in the
direction.  Its unit is lumen per steradian or simply candela.

I = F/Ω , Ω = A/r2

Luminous Flux. The amount of light energy emitted by a source per second

Luminance:Luminous objected objects are visible because they emit light. The luminance of a surface is a
measure of brightness of the surface. The luminance of a surface is measured by the luminous flux reflected by unit
area of the surface. Smooth and white surfaces reflect more light and hence appear brighter. The amount of light
reflected by the surface depends upon the nature of the surface. 

E = F/A = lumens /m2 = lux; = lumens/ft2 = foot candle = IcosѲ / s2

Luminous and illuminated objected:

Luminous objects are visible because they emit light whereas illuminated objected objects are visible because they
reflect light.

The factors on which the illumination of a surface depends areas;

1. Distance of the surface from source.

2. The direction along which light is incident on the surface.

3. The illumination power of light source.

Watts versus lumens

Watts are units of radiant flux while lumens are units of luminous flux. The watt is a unit of power. We are
accustomed to thinking of light bulbs in terms of power in watts. This power is not a measure of the amount of light
output, but rather indicates how much energy the bulb will use. Because incandescent bulbs sold for "general
service" all have fairly similar characteristics (same spectral power distribution), power consumption provides a
rough guide to the light output of incandescent bulbs.
Watts can also be a direct measure of output. In a radiometric sense, an incandescent light bulb is about 80%
efficient: 20% of the energy is lost (e.g. by conduction through the lamp base). The remainder is emitted as
radiation, mostly in the infrared. Thus, a 60 watt light bulb emits a total radiant flux of about 45 watts. Incandescent
bulbs are, in fact, sometimes used as heat sources (as in a chick incubator), but usually they are used for the
purpose of providing light. As such, they are very inefficient, because most of the radiant energy they emit is
invisible infrared. A compact fluorescent lamp can provide light comparable to a 60 watt incandescent while
consuming as little as 15 watts of electricity.
The lumen is the photometric unit of light output. The lumen is defined as amount of light given into
one steradian by a point source of one candela strength; while the candela, a base SI unit, is defined as the
luminous intensity of a source of monochromatic radiation, of frequency 540 terahertz, and a radiant intensity of
1/683 watts per steradian. (540 THz corresponds to about 555 nanometres, the wavelength, in the green, to which
the human eye is most sensitive. The number 1/683 was chosen to make the candela about equal to the standard
candle, the unit which it superseded).

Example 1: 

A light wave emits frequency of 8 × 1014 Hz. What would be its wavelength and wave number?
Frequency f = 8 × 1014 Hz, velocity of light v = 3 × 108 m/s

The wavelength is given by ;λ = v/f  = (3×108m/s) / (8×1014Hz)   = 3.75 × 10−7 m   

The wave number is given by

k = 1/λ   = 1 /375×10−7m   = 2.667 × 106

 Example 2: 

A light wave has frequency of 3.2 × 1019 Hz. What would be its wavelength?


Frequency f = 3.2 × 1019 Hz, velocity of light v = 3 × 108 m/s

The wavelength is given by

λ = v/f

  = (3 ×108 m/s)/(3.2 × 1019 Hz)

  = 0.009 A˙

1. A point source “unshaded electric lamp” of luminous intensity 100 cd is 4.0 m above the top of a table. Find the
illuminance of the table (a) at a point directly below the lamp (b) at a point 3 m from the point directly below the
lamp.( c) what is the measure of the flux at the point directly below the lamp if the area on the table is 1.2 m2?

2. A small unshaded electric lamp hangs 6 m directly above a table. To what distance should it be lowered to
increase the illumination to 2.25 times its former value?

3.A luminous flux of 320 lumens falls on a square 20 cm on a side. What is the illuminance of the square?

4. A luminous flux of 10 lumens is incident on a circle 15 mm diameter. What is the illuminance of the circle?
PROBLEMS More difficult problems are indicated with an asterisk.

1. A luminous flux of 320 lumens falls on a square 20 cm on a side. What is the illuminance of the square?

2. A luminous flux of 10 lumens is incident on a circle 15 mm in diameter. What is the illuminance of the circle?

3. A laser has a radiant flux of one half milliwatt at 640 nm wavelength. This energy is confined to a collimated
beam of 2 mm diameter. What is the illuminance of a screen placed in the beam and perpendicular to it?

4. A collimated beam making an angle of 30° with the normal to a surface of 10 mm2 area carries a luminous flux
of 50 lumens to the surface. What is the illuminance of the surface?

5.* One thousand lumens falls on an ellipsoid with major axis two feet long and minor axis one foot long. What is
the illuminance of the ellipsoid?

6. An illuminance meter reads one lumen/m2. What would that illuminance be in (a) lm/cm2, (b) lm/ft2, (c)
lm/in2, (d) lm/acre, and (e) lm/hectare?

illuminance problems, page 2 © W. F. Long, 1994 ANSWERS

1. 0.8 lm/cm2=8000 lm/m2

2. 5.7x104 lm/m2

3. Luminous flux incident is F=(0.5x10-3watt)(683 lm/watt)(0.175)=6x10-2 lm, and A=π(10-3m)2=πx10-6 m 2,

hence E=F/A=6x10-2/πx10-6 m 2=19x103 lm/m2.

4. 5x106 lm/m2

5. 637 lm/ft2

6. (a) 10-4 lm/cm2; (c) 6.45x10-4 lm/in2