Electromagnetic spectrum

Last updated

Class  Freq-
uency
Wave-
length
Energy
Ionizing
radiation
γ Gamma rays  300 EHz 1 pm 1.24 M eV
 
 30 EHz10 pm124 k eV
HXHard X-rays  
 3 EHz100 pm12.4 keV
SXSoft X-rays 
 300 PHz 1 nm 1.24 keV
 
 30 PHz10 nm124 eV
EUV Extreme
ultraviolet
 
 3 PHz100 nm12.4 eV
 NUV Near
ultraviolet
 
Visible  300 THz 1 μm 1.24 eV
NIRNear infrared  
  30 THz10 μm124 m eV
MIRMid infrared 
 3 THz100 μm12.4 meV
FIR Far infrared  
 300 GHz 1 mm 1.24 meV
Micro-
waves


and

radio
waves
EHF Extremely high
frequency
 
 30 GHz1 cm 124 μ eV
SHF Super high
frequency
 
 3 GHz1 dm 12.4 μeV
UHF Ultra high
frequency
 
 300 MHz 1 m 1.24 μeV
VHF Very high
frequency
 
 30 MHz10 m124 n eV
HF High
frequency
 
 3 MHz100 m12.4 neV
MF Medium
frequency
 
 300 kHz 1 km 1.24 neV
LF Low
frequency
 
 30 kHz10 km124 p eV
VLF Very low
frequency
 
 3 kHz100 km12.4 peV
ULF Ultra low frequency  
 300 Hz 1000 km 1.24 peV
SLF Super low
frequency
 
 30 Hz10000 km124 f eV
ELF Extremely low
frequency
 
 3 Hz100000 km12.4 feV
 
Sources: File:Light spectrum.svg [1] [2] [3]
Legend [1] [2] [3]
γ= Gamma rays MIR=Mid infraredHF= High freq.
HX=Hard X-rays FIR=Far infraredMF= Medium freq.
SX=Soft X-rays Radio waves LF= Low freq.
EUV=Extreme ultraviolet EHF= Extremely high freq. VLF= Very low freq.
NUV= Near ultraviolet SHF= Super high freq. VF/ULF= Voice freq.
Visible light UHF= Ultra high freq. SLF= Super low freq.
NIR=Near Infrared VHF= Very high freq. ELF= Extremely low freq.
Freq = Frequency

The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of frequencies (the spectrum) of electromagnetic radiation and their respective wavelengths and photon energies.

Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and angular frequency. The period is the duration of time of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency. For example: if a newborn baby's heart beats at a frequency of 120 times a minute, its period—the time interval between beats—is half a second. Frequency is an important parameter used in science and engineering to specify the rate of oscillatory and vibratory phenomena, such as mechanical vibrations, audio signals (sound), radio waves, and light.

Spectrum Continuous range of values, such as wavelengths in physics

A spectrum is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary, without steps, across a continuum. The word was first used scientifically in optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light after passing through a prism. As scientific understanding of light advanced, it came to apply to the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

Electromagnetic radiation form of energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles, which exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space

In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Contents

The electromagnetic spectrum covers electromagnetic waves with frequencies ranging from below one hertz to above 1025 hertz, corresponding to wavelengths from thousands of kilometers down to a fraction of the size of an atomic nucleus. This frequency range is divided into separate bands, and the electromagnetic waves within each frequency band are called by different names; beginning at the low frequency (long wavelength) end of the spectrum these are: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays at the high-frequency (short wavelength) end. The electromagnetic waves in each of these bands have different characteristics, such as how they are produced, how they interact with matter, and their practical applications. The limit for long wavelengths is the size of the universe itself, while it is thought that the short wavelength limit is in the vicinity of the Planck length. [4] Gamma rays, X-rays, and high ultraviolet are classified as ionizing radiation as their photons have enough energy to ionize atoms, causing chemical reactions.

Wavelength spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the waves shape repeats, and thus the inverse of the spatial frequency

In physics, the wavelength is the spatial period of a periodic wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats. It is thus the inverse of the spatial frequency. Wavelength is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings and is a characteristic of both traveling waves and standing waves, as well as other spatial wave patterns. Wavelength is commonly designated by the Greek letter lambda (λ). The term wavelength is also sometimes applied to modulated waves, and to the sinusoidal envelopes of modulated waves or waves formed by interference of several sinusoids.

Atomic nucleus core of the atom; composed of bound nucleons (protons and neutrons)

The atomic nucleus is the small, dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom, discovered in 1911 by Ernest Rutherford based on the 1909 Geiger–Marsden gold foil experiment. After the discovery of the neutron in 1932, models for a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons were quickly developed by Dmitri Ivanenko and Werner Heisenberg. An atom is composed of a positively-charged nucleus, with a cloud of negatively-charged electrons surrounding it, bound together by electrostatic force. Almost all of the mass of an atom is located in the nucleus, with a very small contribution from the electron cloud. Protons and neutrons are bound together to form a nucleus by the nuclear force.

Radio wave type of electromagnetic radiation

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm, and at 30 Hz is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light in vacuum. They are generated by electric charges undergoing acceleration, such as time varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.

In most of the frequency bands above, a technique called spectroscopy can be used to physically separate waves of different frequencies, producing a spectrum showing the constituent frequencies. Spectroscopy is used to study the interactions of electromagnetic waves with matter. [5] Other technological uses are described under electromagnetic radiation.

Spectroscopy study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation

Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to include any interaction with radiative energy as a function of its wavelength or frequency, predominantly in the electromagnetic spectrum, though matter waves and acoustic waves can also be considered forms of radiative energy; recently, with tremendous difficulty, even gravitational waves have been associated with a spectral signature in the context of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and laser interferometry. Spectroscopic data are often represented by an emission spectrum, a plot of the response of interest, as a function of wavelength or frequency.

History and discovery

For most of history, visible light was the only known part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The ancient Greeks recognized that light traveled in straight lines and studied some of its properties, including reflection and refraction. The study of light continued, and during the 16th and 17th centuries conflicting theories regarded light as either a wave or a particle. [6]

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Reflection (physics) Change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated

Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected. Mirrors exhibit specular reflection.

Refraction refraction of light

In physics, refraction is the change in direction of a wave passing from one medium to another or from a gradual change in the medium. Refraction of light is the most commonly observed phenomenon, but other waves such as sound waves and water waves also experience refraction. How much a wave is refracted is determined by the change in wave speed and the initial direction of wave propagation relative to the direction of change in speed.

The first discovery of electromagnetic radiation other than visible light came in 1800, when William Herschel discovered infrared radiation. [7] He was studying the temperature of different colors by moving a thermometer through light split by a prism. He noticed that the highest temperature was beyond red. He theorized that this temperature change was due to "calorific rays", a type of light ray that could not be seen.

William Herschel 18th- and 19th-century German-born British astronomer and composer

Frederick William Herschel, was a German-born British astronomer, composer and brother of fellow astronomer Caroline Herschel, with whom he worked. Born in the Electorate of Hanover, Herschel followed his father into the Military Band of Hanover, before migrating to Great Britain in 1757 at the age of nineteen.

Infrared electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light

Infrared radiation (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore generally invisible to the human eye, although IR at wavelengths up to 1050 nanometers (nm)s from specially pulsed lasers can be seen by humans under certain conditions. IR wavelengths extend from the nominal red edge of the visible spectrum at 700 nanometers, to 1 millimeter (300 GHz). Most of the thermal radiation emitted by objects near room temperature is infrared. As with all EMR, IR carries radiant energy and behaves both like a wave and like its quantum particle, the photon.

The next year, Johann Ritter, working at the other end of the spectrum, noticed what he called "chemical rays" (invisible light rays that induced certain chemical reactions). These behaved similarly to visible violet light rays, but were beyond them in the spectrum. [8] They were later renamed ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet Electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays

Ultraviolet (UV) designates a band of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelength from 10 nm to 400 nm, shorter than that of visible light but longer than X-rays. UV radiation is present in sunlight, and contributes about 10% of the total electromagnetic radiation output from the Sun. It is also produced by electric arcs and specialized lights, such as mercury-vapor lamps, tanning lamps, and black lights. Although long-wavelength ultraviolet is not considered an ionizing radiation because its photons lack the energy to ionize atoms, it can cause chemical reactions and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce. Consequently, the chemical and biological effects of UV are greater than simple heating effects, and many practical applications of UV radiation derive from its interactions with organic molecules.

Electromagnetic radiation was first linked to electromagnetism in 1845, when Michael Faraday noticed that the polarization of light traveling through a transparent material responded to a magnetic field (see Faraday effect). During the 1860s James Maxwell developed four partial differential equations for the electromagnetic field. Two of these equations predicted the possibility and behavior of waves in the field. Analyzing the speed of these theoretical waves, Maxwell realized that they must travel at a speed that was about the known speed of light. This startling coincidence in value led Maxwell to make the inference that light itself is a type of electromagnetic wave.

Maxwell's equations predicted an infinite number of frequencies of electromagnetic waves, all traveling at the speed of light. This was the first indication of the existence of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

Maxwell's predicted waves included waves at very low frequencies compared to infrared, which in theory might be created by oscillating charges in an ordinary electrical circuit of a certain type. Attempting to prove Maxwell's equations and detect such low frequency electromagnetic radiation, in 1886 the physicist Heinrich Hertz built an apparatus to generate and detect what are now called radio waves. Hertz found the waves and was able to infer (by measuring their wavelength and multiplying it by their frequency) that they traveled at the speed of light. Hertz also demonstrated that the new radiation could be both reflected and refracted by various dielectric media, in the same manner as light. For example, Hertz was able to focus the waves using a lens made of tree resin. In a later experiment, Hertz similarly produced and measured the properties of microwaves. These new types of waves paved the way for inventions such as the wireless telegraph and the radio.

In 1895 Wilhelm Röntgen noticed a new type of radiation emitted during an experiment with an evacuated tube subjected to a high voltage. He called these radiations x-rays and found that they were able to travel through parts of the human body but were reflected or stopped by denser matter such as bones. Before long, many uses were found for them in the field of medicine.

The last portion of the electromagnetic spectrum was filled in with the discovery of gamma rays. In 1900 Paul Villard was studying the radioactive emissions of radium when he identified a new type of radiation that he first thought consisted of particles similar to known alpha and beta particles, but with the power of being far more penetrating than either. However, in 1910, British physicist William Henry Bragg demonstrated that gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation, not particles, and in 1914, Ernest Rutherford (who had named them gamma rays in 1903 when he realized that they were fundamentally different from charged alpha and beta particles) and Edward Andrade measured their wavelengths, and found that gamma rays were similar to X-rays, but with shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies.

Range

Electromagnetic waves are typically described by any of the following three physical properties: the frequency f, wavelength λ, or photon energy E. Frequencies observed in astronomy range from 2.4×1023 Hz (1 GeV gamma rays) down to the local plasma frequency of the ionized interstellar medium (~1 kHz). Wavelength is inversely proportional to the wave frequency, [5] so gamma rays have very short wavelengths that are fractions of the size of atoms, whereas wavelengths on the opposite end of the spectrum can be as long as the universe. Photon energy is directly proportional to the wave frequency, so gamma ray photons have the highest energy (around a billion electron volts), while radio wave photons have very low energy (around a femtoelectronvolt). These relations are illustrated by the following equations:

where:

Whenever electromagnetic waves exist in a medium with matter, their wavelength is decreased. Wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, no matter what medium they are traveling through, are usually quoted in terms of the vacuum wavelength, although this is not always explicitly stated.

Generally, electromagnetic radiation is classified by wavelength into radio wave, microwave, terahertz (or sub-millimeter) radiation, infrared, the visible region that is perceived as light, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays. The behavior of EM radiation depends on its wavelength. When EM radiation interacts with single atoms and molecules, its behavior also depends on the amount of energy per quantum (photon) it carries.

Spectroscopy can detect a much wider region of the EM spectrum than the visible wavelength range of 400 nm to 700 nm in a vacuum. A common laboratory spectroscope can detect wavelengths from 2 nm to 2500 nm.[ citation needed ] Detailed information about the physical properties of objects, gases, or even stars can be obtained from this type of device. Spectroscopes are widely used in astrophysics. For example, many hydrogen atoms emit a radio wave photon that has a wavelength of 21.12 cm. Also, frequencies of 30 Hz and below can be produced by and are important in the study of certain stellar nebulae [10] and frequencies as high as 2.9×1027 Hz have been detected from astrophysical sources. [11]

Regions

The electromagnetic spectrum Electromagnetic-Spectrum.svg
The electromagnetic spectrum
A diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum, showing various properties across the range of frequencies and wavelengths EM Spectrum Properties edit.svg
A diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum, showing various properties across the range of frequencies and wavelengths

The types of electromagnetic radiation are broadly classified into the following classes (regions, bands or types): [5]

  1. Gamma radiation
  2. X-ray radiation
  3. Ultraviolet radiation
  4. Visible radiation
  5. Infrared radiation
  6. Terahertz radiation
  7. Microwave radiation
  8. Radio waves

This classification goes in the increasing order of wavelength, which is characteristic of the type of radiation. [5]

There are no precisely defined boundaries between the bands of the electromagnetic spectrum; rather they fade into each other like the bands in a rainbow (which is the sub-spectrum of visible light). Radiation of each frequency and wavelength (or in each band) has a mix of properties of the two regions of the spectrum that bound it. For example, red light resembles infrared radiation in that it can excite and add energy to some chemical bonds and indeed must do so to power the chemical mechanisms responsible for photosynthesis and the working of the visual system.

The distinction between X-rays and gamma rays is partly based on sources: the photons generated from nuclear decay or other nuclear and subnuclear/particle process are always termed gamma rays, whereas X-rays are generated by electronic transitions involving highly energetic inner atomic electrons. [12] [13] [14] In general, nuclear transitions are much more energetic than electronic transitions, so gamma-rays are more energetic than X-rays, but exceptions exist. By analogy to electronic transitions, muonic atom transitions are also said to produce X-rays, even though their energy may exceed 6 megaelectronvolts (0.96 pJ), [15] whereas there are many (77 known to be less than 10 keV (1.6 fJ)) low-energy nuclear transitions (e.g., the 7.6 eV (1.22 aJ) nuclear transition of thorium-229), and, despite being one million-fold less energetic than some muonic X-rays, the emitted photons are still called gamma rays due to their nuclear origin. [16]

The convention that EM radiation that is known to come from the nucleus, is always called "gamma ray" radiation is the only convention that is universally respected, however. Many astronomical gamma ray sources (such as gamma ray bursts) are known to be too energetic (in both intensity and wavelength) to be of nuclear origin. Quite often, in high energy physics and in medical radiotherapy, very high energy EMR (in the >10 MeV region)—which is of higher energy than any nuclear gamma ray—is not called X-ray or gamma-ray, but instead by the generic term of "high energy photons."

The region of the spectrum where a particular observed electromagnetic radiation falls, is reference frame-dependent (due to the Doppler shift for light), so EM radiation that one observer would say is in one region of the spectrum could appear to an observer moving at a substantial fraction of the speed of light with respect to the first to be in another part of the spectrum. For example, consider the cosmic microwave background. It was produced when matter and radiation decoupled, by the de-excitation of hydrogen atoms to the ground state. These photons were from Lyman series transitions, putting them in the ultraviolet (UV) part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Now this radiation has undergone enough cosmological red shift to put it into the microwave region of the spectrum for observers moving slowly (compared to the speed of light) with respect to the cosmos.

Rationale for names

Electromagnetic radiation interacts with matter in different ways across the spectrum. These types of interaction are so different that historically different names have been applied to different parts of the spectrum, as though these were different types of radiation. Thus, although these "different kinds" of electromagnetic radiation form a quantitatively continuous spectrum of frequencies and wavelengths, the spectrum remains divided for practical reasons related to these qualitative interaction differences.

Electromagnetic radiation interaction with matter
Region of the spectrumMain interactions with matter
Radio Collective oscillation of charge carriers in bulk material (plasma oscillation). An example would be the oscillatory travels of the electrons in an antenna.
Microwave through far infrared Plasma oscillation, molecular rotation
Near infrared Molecular vibration, plasma oscillation (in metals only)
Visible Molecular electron excitation (including pigment molecules found in the human retina), plasma oscillations (in metals only)
Ultraviolet Excitation of molecular and atomic valence electrons, including ejection of the electrons (photoelectric effect)
X-rays Excitation and ejection of core atomic electrons, Compton scattering (for low atomic numbers)
Gamma rays Energetic ejection of core electrons in heavy elements, Compton scattering (for all atomic numbers), excitation of atomic nuclei, including dissociation of nuclei
High-energy gamma rays Creation of particle-antiparticle pairs. At very high energies a single photon can create a shower of high-energy particles and antiparticles upon interaction with matter.

Types of radiation

Radio frequency

Radio waves are emitted and received by antennas, which consist of conductors such as metal rod resonators. In artificial generation of radio waves, an electronic device called a transmitter generates an AC electric current which is applied to an antenna. The oscillating electrons in the antenna generate oscillating electric and magnetic fields that radiate away from the antenna as radio waves. In reception of radio waves, the oscillating electric and magnetic fields of a radio wave couple to the electrons in an antenna, pushing them back and forth, creating oscillating currents which are applied to a radio receiver. Earth's atmosphere is mainly transparent to radio waves, except for layers of charged particles in the ionosphere which can reflect certain frequencies.

Radio waves are extremely widely used to transmit information across distances in radio communication systems such as radio broadcasting, television, two way radios, mobile phones, communication satellites, and wireless networking. In a radio communication system, a radio frequency current is modulated with an information-bearing signal in a transmitter by varying either the amplitude, frequency or phase, and applied to an antenna. The radio waves carry the information across space to a receiver, where they are received by an antenna and the information extracted by demodulation in the receiver. Radio waves are also used for navigation in systems like Global Positioning System (GPS) and navigational beacons, and locating distant objects in radiolocation and radar. They are also used for remote control, and for industrial heating.

The use of the radio spectrum is strictly regulated by governments, coordinated by a body called the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which allocates frequencies to different users for different uses.

Microwaves

Plot of Earth's atmospheric opacity to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. This is the surface-to-space opacity, the atmosphere is transparent to longwave radio transmissions within the troposphere, not opaque as shown on the chart. Atmospheric electromagnetic opacity.svg
Plot of Earth's atmospheric opacity to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. This is the surface-to-space opacity, the atmosphere is transparent to longwave radio transmissions within the troposphere, not opaque as shown on the chart.

Microwaves are radio waves of short wavelength, from about 10 centimeters to one millimeter, in the SHF and EHF frequency bands. Microwave energy is produced with klystron and magnetron tubes, and with solid state devices such as Gunn and IMPATT diodes. Although they are emitted and absorbed by short antennas, they are also absorbed by polar molecules, coupling to vibrational and rotational modes, resulting in bulk heating. Unlike higher frequency waves such as infrared and light which are absorbed mainly at surfaces, microwaves can penetrate into materials and deposit their energy below the surface. This effect is used to heat food in microwave ovens, and for industrial heating and medical diathermy. Microwaves are the main wavelengths used in radar, and are used for satellite communication, and wireless networking technologies such as Wi-Fi, although this is at intensity levels unable to cause thermal heating. The copper cables (transmission lines) which are used to carry lower frequency radio waves to antennas have excessive power losses at microwave frequencies, and metal pipes called waveguides are used to carry them. Although at the low end of the band the atmosphere is mainly transparent, at the upper end of the band absorption of microwaves by atmospheric gasses limits practical propagation distances to a few kilometers.

Terahertz radiation

Terahertz radiation is a region of the spectrum between far infrared and microwaves. Until recently, the range was rarely studied and few sources existed for microwave energy at the high end of the band (sub-millimeter waves or so-called terahertz waves), but applications such as imaging and communications are now appearing. Scientists are also looking to apply terahertz technology in the armed forces, where high-frequency waves might be directed at enemy troops to incapacitate their electronic equipment. [17] Terahertz radiation is strongly absorbed by atmospheric gases, making this frequency range useless for long distance communication.

Infrared radiation

The infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum covers the range from roughly 300 GHz to 400 THz (1 mm - 750 nm). It can be divided into three parts: [5]

Visible radiation (light)

Above infrared in frequency comes visible light. The Sun emits its peak power in the visible region, although integrating the entire emission power spectrum through all wavelengths shows that the Sun emits slightly more infrared than visible light. [18] By definition, visible light is the part of the EM spectrum the human eye is the most sensitive to. Visible light (and near-infrared light) is typically absorbed and emitted by electrons in molecules and atoms that move from one energy level to another. This action allows the chemical mechanisms that underlie human vision and plant photosynthesis. The light that excites the human visual system is a very small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. A rainbow shows the optical (visible) part of the electromagnetic spectrum; infrared (if it could be seen) would be located just beyond the red side of the rainbow with ultraviolet appearing just beyond the violet end.

Electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 380 nm and 760 nm (400–790 terahertz) is detected by the human eye and perceived as visible light. Other wavelengths, especially near infrared (longer than 760 nm) and ultraviolet (shorter than 380 nm) are also sometimes referred to as light, especially when the visibility to humans is not relevant. White light is a combination of lights of different wavelengths in the visible spectrum. Passing white light through a prism splits it up into the several colors of light observed in the visible spectrum between 400 nm and 780 nm.

If radiation having a frequency in the visible region of the EM spectrum reflects off an object, say, a bowl of fruit, and then strikes the eyes, this results in visual perception of the scene. The brain's visual system processes the multitude of reflected frequencies into different shades and hues, and through this insufficiently-understood psychophysical phenomenon, most people perceive a bowl of fruit.

At most wavelengths, however, the information carried by electromagnetic radiation is not directly detected by human senses. Natural sources produce EM radiation across the spectrum, and technology can also manipulate a broad range of wavelengths. Optical fiber transmits light that, although not necessarily in the visible part of the spectrum (it is usually infrared), can carry information. The modulation is similar to that used with radio waves.

Ultraviolet radiation

The amount of penetration of UV relative to altitude in Earth's ozone Ozone altitude UV graph.svg
The amount of penetration of UV relative to altitude in Earth's ozone

Next in frequency comes ultraviolet (UV). The wavelength of UV rays is shorter than the violet end of the visible spectrum but longer than the X-ray.

UV is the longest wavelength radiation whose photons are energetic enough to ionize atoms, separating electrons from them, and thus causing chemical reactions. Short wavelength UV and the shorter wavelength radiation above it (X-rays and gamma rays) are called ionizing radiation , and exposure to them can damage living tissue, making them a health hazard. UV can also cause many substances to glow with visible light; this is called fluorescence .

At the middle range of UV, UV rays cannot ionize but can break chemical bonds, making molecules unusually reactive. Sunburn, for example, is caused by the disruptive effects of middle range UV radiation on skin cells, which is the main cause of skin cancer. UV rays in the middle range can irreparably damage the complex DNA molecules in the cells producing thymine dimers making it a very potent mutagen.

The Sun emits significant UV radiation (about 10% of its total power), including extremely short wavelength UV that could potentially destroy most life on land (ocean water would provide some protection for life there). However, most of the Sun's damaging UV wavelengths are absorbed by the atmosphere before they reach the surface. The higher energy (shortest wavelength) ranges of UV (called "vacuum UV") are absorbed by nitrogen and, at longer wavelengths, by simple diatomic oxygen in the air. Most of the UV in the mid-range of energy is blocked by the ozone layer, which absorbs strongly in the important 200–315 nm range, the lower energy part of which is too long for ordinary dioxygen in air to absorb. This leaves less than 3% of sunlight at sea level in UV, with all of this remainder at the lower energies. The remainder is UV-A, along with some UV-B. The very lowest energy range of UV between 315 nm and visible light (called UV-A) is not blocked well by the atmosphere, but does not cause sunburn and does less biological damage. However, it is not harmless and does create oxygen radicals, mutations and skin damage. See ultraviolet for more information.

X-rays

After UV come X-rays, which, like the upper ranges of UV are also ionizing. However, due to their higher energies, X-rays can also interact with matter by means of the Compton effect. Hard X-rays have shorter wavelengths than soft X-rays and as they can pass through many substances with little absorption, they can be used to 'see through' objects with 'thicknesses' less than that equivalent to a few meters of water. One notable use is diagnostic X-ray imaging in medicine (a process known as radiography). X-rays are useful as probes in high-energy physics. In astronomy, the accretion disks around neutron stars and black holes emit X-rays, enabling studies of these phenomena. X-rays are also emitted by the coronas of stars and are strongly emitted by some types of nebulae. However, X-ray telescopes must be placed outside the Earth's atmosphere to see astronomical X-rays, since the great depth of the atmosphere of Earth is opaque to X-rays (with areal density of 1000 g/cm2), equivalent to 10 meters thickness of water. [19] This is an amount sufficient to block almost all astronomical X-rays (and also astronomical gamma rays—see below).

Gamma rays

After hard X-rays come gamma rays, which were discovered by Paul Ulrich Villard in 1900. These are the most energetic photons, having no defined lower limit to their wavelength. In astronomy they are valuable for studying high-energy objects or regions, however as with X-rays this can only be done with telescopes outside the Earth's atmosphere. Gamma rays are used experimentally by physicists for their penetrating ability and are produced by a number of radioisotopes. They are used for irradiation of foods and seeds for sterilization, and in medicine they are occasionally used in radiation cancer therapy. [20] More commonly, gamma rays are used for diagnostic imaging in nuclear medicine, an example being PET scans. The wavelength of gamma rays can be measured with high accuracy through the effects of Compton scattering.

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 What is Light? Archived December 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine UC Davis lecture slides
  2. 1 2 Elert, Glenn. "The Electromagnetic Spectrum, The Physics Hypertextbook". Hypertextbook.com. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  3. 1 2 "Definition of frequency bands on". Vlf.it. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  4. Bakshi, U. A.; Godse, A. P. (2009). Basic Electronics Engineering. Technical Publications. pp. 8–10. ISBN   978-81-8431-580-6.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Mehta, Akul. "Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum and Spectroscopy". Pharmaxchange.info. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  6. Haitel, Gary (2014-05-15). Origins and Grand Finale: How the Bible and Science relate to the Origin of Everything, Abuses of Political Authority, and End Times Predictions. iUniverse. ISBN   9781491732571.
  7. "Herschel Discovers Infrared Light". Cool Cosmos Classroom activities. Archived from the original on 2012-02-25. Retrieved 4 March 2013. He directed sunlight through a glass prism to create a spectrum […] and then measured the temperature of each colour. […] He found that the temperatures of the colors increased from the violet to the red part of the spectrum. […] Herschel decided to measure the temperature just beyond the red of the spectrum in a region where no sunlight was visible. To his surprise, he found that this region had the highest temperature of all.
  8. Davidson, Michael W. "Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776–1810)". The Florida State University. Retrieved 5 March 2013. Ritter […] hypothesized that there must also be invisible radiation beyond the violet end of the spectrum and commenced experiments to confirm his speculation. He began working with silver chloride, a substance decomposed by light, measuring the speed at which different colors of light broke it down. […] Ritter […] demonstrated that the fastest rate of decomposition occurred with radiation that could not be seen, but that existed in a region beyond the violet. Ritter initially referred to the new type of radiation as chemical rays, but the title of ultraviolet radiation eventually became the preferred term.
  9. Mohr, Peter J.; Taylor, Barry N.; Newell, David B. (2008). "CODATA Recommended Values of the Fundamental Physical Constants: 2006" (PDF). Reviews of Modern Physics . 80 (2): 633–730. arXiv: 0801.0028 . Bibcode:2008RvMP...80..633M. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.80.633. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-10-01. Direct link to value .
  10. Condon, J. J.; Ransom, S. M. "Essential Radio Astronomy: Pulsar Properties". National Radio Astronomy Observatory . Retrieved 2008-01-05.
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Related Research Articles

Light electromagnetic radiation in or near visible spectrum

Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7 m, between the infrared and the ultraviolet. This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz).

Radiation Waves or particles propagating through space or through a medium, carrying energy

In physics, radiation is the emission or transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space or through a material medium. This includes:

In physics, attenuation or, in some contexts, extinction is the gradual loss of flux intensity through a medium. For instance, dark glasses attenuate sunlight, lead attenuates X-rays, and water and air attenuate both light and sound at variable attenuation rates.

Ultraviolet astronomy Observation of electromagnetic radiation at ultraviolet wavelengths

Ultraviolet astronomy is the observation of electromagnetic radiation at ultraviolet wavelengths between approximately 10 and 320 nanometres; shorter wavelengths—higher energy photons—are studied by X-ray astronomy and gamma ray astronomy. Ultraviolet light is not visible to the human eye. Most of the light at these wavelengths is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so observations at these wavelengths must be performed from the upper atmosphere or from space.

Emission spectrum Frequencies of light emitted by atoms or chemical compounds

The emission spectrum of a chemical element or chemical compound is the spectrum of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation emitted due to an atom or molecule making a transition from a high energy state to a lower energy state. The photon energy of the emitted photon is equal to the energy difference between the two states. There are many possible electron transitions for each atom, and each transition has a specific energy difference. This collection of different transitions, leading to different radiated wavelengths, make up an emission spectrum. Each element's emission spectrum is unique. Therefore, spectroscopy can be used to identify the elements in matter of unknown composition. Similarly, the emission spectra of molecules can be used in chemical analysis of substances.

Terahertz radiation The range 300-3000 GHz of the electromagnetic spectrum

Terahertz radiation – also known as submillimeter radiation, terahertz waves, tremendously high frequency (THF), T-rays, T-waves, T-light, T-lux or THz – consists of electromagnetic waves within the ITU-designated band of frequencies from 0.1 to 30 terahertz (THz). One terahertz is 1012 Hz or 1000 GHz. Wavelengths of radiation in the terahertz band correspondingly range from 1 mm to 0.1 mm (or 100 μm). Because terahertz radiation begins at a wavelength of one millimeter and proceeds into shorter wavelengths, it is sometimes known as the submillimeter band, and its radiation as submillimeter waves, especially in astronomy.

Absorption spectroscopy spectroscopic techniques that measure the absorption of radiation

Absorption spectroscopy refers to spectroscopic techniques that measure the absorption of radiation, as a function of frequency or wavelength, due to its interaction with a sample. The sample absorbs energy, i.e., photons, from the radiating field. The intensity of the absorption varies as a function of frequency, and this variation is the absorption spectrum. Absorption spectroscopy is performed across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Photometer scientific instrument

A photometer is an instrument that measures the strength of electromagnetic radiation in the range from ultraviolet to infrared and including the visible spectrum. Most photometers convert light into an electric current using a photoresistor, photodiode, or photomultiplier.

Far infrared

Far infrared (FIR) is a region in the infrared spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Far infrared is often defined as any radiation with a wavelength of 15 micrometers (µm) to 1 mm, which places far infrared radiation within the CIE IR-B and IR-C bands. The long-wave side of the FIR spectrum overlaps with so named terahertz radiation. Different sources use different boundaries for the far infrared; for example, astronomers sometimes define far infrared as wavelengths between 25 µm and 350 µm.

Absorption band

According to quantum mechanics, atoms and molecules can only hold certain defined quantities of energy, or exist in specific states. When such quanta of electromagnetic radiation are emitted or absorbed by an atom or molecule, the energy of the radiation changes the state of the atom or molecule from an initial state to a final state. An absorption band is a range of wavelengths, frequencies or energies in the electromagnetic spectrum which are characteristic of a particular transition from initial to final state in a substance.

Extreme ultraviolet ultraviolet light with a wavelength of 10–121nm

Extreme ultraviolet radiation or high-energy ultraviolet radiation is electromagnetic radiation in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum spanning wavelengths from 124 nm down to 10 nm, and therefore having photons with energies from 10 eV up to 124 eV. EUV is naturally generated by the solar corona and artificially by plasma and synchrotron light sources. Since UVC extends to 100 nm, there is some overlap in the terms.

Ultraviolet photography is a photographic process of recording images by using light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum only. Images taken with ultraviolet light serve a number of scientific, medical or artistic purposes. Images may reveal deterioration of art works or structures not apparent under visible light. Diagnostic medial images may be used to detect certain skin disorders or as evidence of injury. Some animals, particularly insects, use ultraviolet wavelengths for vision; ultraviolet photography can help investigate the markings of plants that attract insects, while invisible to the unaided human eye. Ultraviolet photography of archaeological sites may reveal artifacts or traffic patterns not otherwise visible.

Telescope Optical instrument that makes distant objects appear magnified

A telescope is an optical instrument that makes distant objects appear magnified by using an arrangement of lenses or curved mirrors and lenses, or various devices used to observe distant objects by their emission, absorption, or reflection of electromagnetic radiation. The first known practical telescopes were refracting telescopes invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century, by using glass lenses. They were used for both terrestrial applications and astronomy.

Lyman continuum photons

Lyman continuum photons, shortened to Ly continuum photons or Lyc photon, are the photons emitted from stars at photon energies above the Lyman limit. Hydrogen is ionized by absorbing LyC. Working off of Victor Schumann's discovery of ultraviolet light, from 1906 to 1914, Theodore Lyman observed that atomic hydrogen absorbs light only at specific frequencies and the Lyman series is thus named after him. All the wavelengths in the Lyman series are in the ultraviolet band. This quantized absorption behavior occurs only up to an energy limit, known as the ionization energy. In the case of neutral atomic hydrogen, the minimum ionization energy is equal to the Lyman limit, where the photon has enough energy to completely ionize the atom, resulting in a free proton and a free electron. Above this energy, all wavelengths of light may be absorbed. This forms a continuum in the energy spectrum; the spectrum is continuous rather than composed of many discrete lines, which are seen at lower energies.

Photon energy is the energy carried by a single photon. The amount of energy is directly proportional to the photon's electromagnetic frequency and thus, equivalently, is inversely proportional to the wavelength. The higher the photon's frequency, the higher its energy. Equivalently, the longer the photon's wavelength, the lower its energy.

Non-ionizing radiation electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules

Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. Ionizing radiation which has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than nonionizing radiation, has many uses but can be a health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures which in general are not required with nonionizing radiation.