The Info List - Luminous Intensity

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In photometry, luminous intensity is a measure of the wavelength-weighted power emitted by a light source in a particular direction per unit solid angle, based on the luminosity function, a standardized model of the sensitivity of the human eye. The SI unit
SI unit
of luminous intensity is the candela (cd), an SI base unit. Photometry deals with the measurement of visible light as perceived by human eyes. The human eye can only see light in the visible spectrum and has different sensitivities to light of different wavelengths within the spectrum. When adapted for bright conditions (photopic vision), the eye is most sensitive to greenish-yellow light at 555 nm. Light
with the same radiant intensity at other wavelengths has a lower luminous intensity. The curve which measures the response of the human eye to light is a defined standard, known as the luminosity function. This curve, denoted V(λ) or

y ¯

( λ )

displaystyle textstyle overline y (lambda )

, is based on an average of widely differing experimental data from scientists using different measurement techniques. For instance, the measured responses of the eye to violet light varied by a factor of ten[citation needed] .


1 Relationship to other measures 2 Units 3 Usage 4 See also 5 References

5.1 Curve data

Relationship to other measures[edit] Luminous intensity
Luminous intensity
should not be confused with another photometric unit, luminous flux, which is the total perceived power emitted in all directions. Luminous intensity
Luminous intensity
is the perceived power per unit solid angle. If a lamp has a 1 lumen bulb and the optics of the lamp are set up to focus the light evenly into a 1 steradian beam, then the beam would have a luminous intensity of 1 candela. If the optics were changed to concentrate the beam into 1/2 steradian then the source would have a luminous intensity of 2 candela. The resulting beam is narrower and brighter, though its luminous flux remains unchanged. Luminous intensity
Luminous intensity
is also not the same as the radiant intensity, the corresponding objective physical quantity used in the measurement science of radiometry. Units[edit] Like other SI base units, the candela has an operational definition—it is defined by the description of a physical process that will produce one candela of luminous intensity. By definition, if one constructs a light source that emits monochromatic green light with a frequency of 540 THz, and that has a radiant intensity of 1/683 watts per steradian in a given direction, that light source will emit one candela in the specified direction.[1] The frequency of light used in the definition corresponds to a wavelength of 555 nm, which is near the peak of the eye's response to light. If the source emitted uniformly in all directions, the total radiant flux would be about 18.40 mW, since there are 4π steradians in a sphere. A typical candle produces very roughly one candela of luminous intensity. Prior to the definition of the candela, a variety of units for luminous intensity were used in various countries. These were typically based on the brightness of the flame from a "standard candle" of defined composition, or the brightness of an incandescent filament of specific design. One of the best-known of these standards was the English standard: candlepower. One candlepower was the light produced by a pure spermaceti candle weighing one sixth of a pound and burning at a rate of 120 grains per hour. Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia used the Hefnerkerze, a unit based on the output of a Hefner lamp.[2] In 1881, Jules Violle
Jules Violle
proposed the Violle
as a unit of luminous intensity, and it was notable as the first unit of light intensity that did not depend on the properties of a particular lamp. All of these units were superseded by the definition of the candela. Usage[edit] The luminous intensity for monochromatic light of a particular wavelength λ is given by



= 683 ⋅

y ¯

( λ ) ⋅




displaystyle I_ mathrm v =683cdot overline y (lambda )cdot I_ mathrm e ,


Iv is the luminous intensity in candelas (cd), Ie is the radiant intensity in watts per steradian (W/sr),

y ¯

( λ )

displaystyle textstyle overline y (lambda )

is the standard luminosity function.

If more than one wavelength is present (as is usually the case), one must sum or integrate over the spectrum of wavelengths present to get the luminous intensity:



= 683


y ¯

( λ ) ⋅




( λ )

d λ

d λ .

displaystyle I_ mathrm v =683int _ 0 ^ infty overline y (lambda )cdot frac dI_ mathrm e (lambda ) dlambda ,dlambda .

See also[edit]

Brightness International System of Quantities Radiance


^ "Base unit definitions: Candela". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. Retrieved 8 February 2008.  ^ "Hefner unit, or Hefner candle". Sizes.com. 30 May 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2009. 

Curve data[edit]

^ "CIE Scotopic luminosity curve (1951)". Archived from the original on 2008-12-28.  ^ "CIE (1931) 2-deg color matching functions". Archived from the original on 2008-12-28.  ^ "Judd–Vos modified CIE 2-deg photopic luminosity curve (1978)". Archived from the original on 2008-12-28.  ^ "Sharpe, Stockman, Jagla & Jägle (2005) 2-deg V*(l) luminous efficiency function". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. 

SI photometry quantities

v t e

Quantity Unit Dimension Notes

Name Symbol[nb 1] Name Symbol Symbol[nb 2]

Luminous energy Qv [nb 3] lumen second lm⋅s T⋅J The lumen second is sometimes called the talbot.

Luminous flux
Luminous flux
/ luminous power Φv [nb 3] lumen (= cd⋅sr) lm J Luminous energy per unit time

Luminous intensity Iv candela (= lm/sr) cd J Luminous flux
Luminous flux
per unit solid angle

Luminance Lv candela per square metre cd/m2 L−2⋅J Luminous flux
Luminous flux
per unit solid angle per unit projected source area. The candela per square metre is sometimes called the nit.

Illuminance Ev lux (= lm/m2) lx L−2⋅J Luminous flux
Luminous flux
incident on a surface

Luminous exitance
Luminous exitance
/ luminous emittance Mv lux lx L−2⋅J Luminous flux
Luminous flux
emitted from a surface

Luminous exposure Hv lux second lx⋅s L−2⋅T⋅J Time-integrated illuminance

Luminous energy density ωv lumen second per cubic metre lm⋅s⋅m−3 L−3⋅T⋅J

Luminous efficacy η [nb 3] lumen per watt lm/W M−1⋅L−2⋅T3⋅J Ratio of luminous flux to radiant flux or power consumption, depending on context

Luminous efficiency
Luminous efficiency
/ luminous coefficient V

1 Luminous efficacy
Luminous efficacy
normalized by the maximum possible efficacy

See also: SI · Photometry · Radiometry

^ Standards organizations recommend that photometric quantities be denoted with a suffix "v" (for "visual") to avoid confusion with radiometric or photon quantities. For example: USA Standard Letter Symbols for Illuminating Engineering USAS Z7.1-1967, Y10.18-1967 ^ The symbols in this column denote dimensions; "L", "T" and "J" are for length, time and luminous intensity respectively, not the symbols for the units litre, tesla and joule. ^ a b c Alternative symbols sometimes seen: W for luminous energy, P or F for luminous flux, and ρ or K for luminous efficacy.

v t e

SI base quantities

Base quantity


SI unit

Name Symbol Dimension symbol

Unit name (symbol) Example

length l, x, r, (etc.) L

metre (m) r = 10 m

mass m M

kilogram (kg) m = 10 kg

time, duration t T

second (s) t = 10 s

electric current  I , i  I 

ampere (A) I = 10 A

thermodynamic temperature T Θ

kelvin (K) T = 10 K

amount of substance n N

mole (mol) n = 10 mol

luminous intensity Iv J

candela (cd) Iv = 10 cd


The quantity (not the unit) can have a specification: Tmax = 300 K

Derived quantity


A quantity Q is expressed in the base quantities:

Q = f


l , m , t , I , T , n , I



displaystyle Q=fleft( mathit l,m,t,I,T,n,I mathrm _ v right)

Derived dimension

dim Q = La · Mb · Tc · Id · Θe · Nf · Jg (Superscripts a–g are algebraic exponents, usually a positive, negative or zero integer.)


Quantity acceleration = l1 · t−2, dim acceleration = L1 · T−2 possible units: m1 · s−2, km1 · Ms−2, etc.

See also

History of the metric system International System of Quantities Proposed redefinitions Systems of measurement