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RD's Science Pages

What happens to light falling on an object?

When light falls on an object, it may be transmitted (allowed to pass through it without interaction), or reflected (the ray is turned back without allowing it to pass through), or it is absorbed (used up completely for any one or more of the transitions listed in the tables given below) or it is scattered (reflected in different directions).


Usually, all of these happen together. A portion of the incident light may be transmitted through the object, another portion may be reflected by it (if the surface is very smooth like in the case of glass), some of it is absorbed and some may be scattered (reflected in different directions because of the roughness of the surface).

When I say "light" in this context, I mean the entire range of electromagnetic spectrum, and not the visible part alone. It includes X-rays, UV, visible, microwaves, IR and so on. Actually, these names refer to different energy ranges in the electromagnetic spectrum, as shown below:

What happens to the light absorbed by an object?

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