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In physics, and in particular as measured by radiometry, radiant energy is the energy of electromagnetic and gravitational radiation.[1] As energy, its SI unit is the joule (J). The quantity of radiant energy may be calculated by integrating radiant flux (or power) with respect to time. The symbol Qe is often used throughout literature to denote radiant energy ("e" for "energetic", to avoid confusion with photometric quantities). In branches of physics other than radiometry, electromagnetic energy is referred to using E or W. The term is used particularly when electromagnetic radiation is emitted by a source into the surrounding environment. This radiation may be visible or invisible to the human eye.[2][3]

Terminology use and history

The term "radiant energy" is most commonly used in the fields of radiometry, solar energy, heating and lighting, but is also sometimes used in other fields (such as telecommunications). In modern applications involving transmission of power from one location to another, "radiant energy" is sometimes used to refer to the electromagnetic waves themselves, rather than their energy (a property of the waves). In the past, the term "electro-radiant energy" has also been used.[4]

The term "radiant energy" also applies to gravitational radiation.[5][6] For example, the first gravitational waves ever observed were produced by a black hole collision that emitted about 5.3×1047 joules of gravitational-wave energy.[7]

Analysis

Cherenkov radiation glowing in the core of a TRIGA reactor.

Because electromagnetic (EM) radiation can be conceptualized as a stream of photons, radiant energy can be viewed as photon energy – the energy carried by these photons. Alternatively, EM radiation can be viewed as an electromagnetic wave, which carries energy in its oscillating electric and magnetic fields. These two views are completely equivalent and are reconciled to one another in quantum field theory (see wave-particle duality).

EM radiation can have various frequencies. The bands of frequency present in a given EM signal may be sharply defined, as is seen in atomic spectra, or may be broad, as in blackbody radiation. In the particle picture, the energy carried by each photon is proportional to its frequency. In the wave picture, the energy of a monochromatic wave is proportional to its intensity. This implies that if two EM waves have the same intensity, but different frequencies, the one with the higher frequency "contains" fewer photons, since each photon is more energetic.

When EM waves are absorbed by an object, the energy of the waves is converted to heat (or converted to electricity in case of a photoelectric material). This is a very familiar effect, since sunlight warms surfaces that it irradiates. Often this phenomenon is associated particularly with infrared radiation, but any kind of electromagnetic radiation will warm an object that absorbs it. EM waves can also be reflected or

The term "radiant energy" is most commonly used in the fields of radiometry, solar energy, heating and lighting, but is also sometimes used in other fields (such as telecommunications). In modern applications involving transmission of power from one location to another, "radiant energy" is sometimes used to refer to the electromagnetic waves themselves, rather than their energy (a property of the waves). In the past, the term "electro-radiant energy" has also been used.[4]

The term "radiant energy" also applies to gravitational radiation.[5][6] For example, the first gravitational waves ever observed were produced by a black hole collision that emitted about 5.3×1047 joules of gravitational-wave energy.[7]

Analysis

Cherenkov radiation glowing in the core of a TRIGA re

The term "radiant energy" also applies to gravitational radiation.[5][6] For example, the first gravitational waves ever observed were produced by a black hole collision that emitted about 5.3×1047 joules of gravitational-wave energy.[7]

Because electromagnetic (EM) radiation can be conceptualized as a stream of photons, radiant energy can be viewed as photon energy – the energy carried by these photons. Alternatively, EM radiation can be viewed as an electromagnetic wave, which carries energy in its oscillating electric and magnetic fields. These two views are completely equivalent and are reconciled to one another in quantum field theory (see wave-particle duality).

EM radiation can have various frequencies. The bands of frequency present in a given EM signal may be sharply defined, as is seen in atomic spectra, or may be broad, as in blackbody radiation. In the particle picture, the energy carried by each photon is proportional to its frequency. In the wave picture, the energy of a monochromatic wave is proportional to its intensity. This implies that if two EM waves have the same intensity, but different frequencies, the one with the higher frequency "contains" fewer photons, since each photon is more energetic.

When EM waves are absorbed by an object, the energy of the waves is converted to heat (or converted to electricity in case of a photoelectric material). This is a very familia

EM radiation can have various frequencies. The bands of frequency present in a given EM signal may be sharply defined, as is seen in atomic spectra, or may be broad, as in blackbody radiation. In the particle picture, the energy carried by each photon is proportional to its frequency. In the wave picture, the energy of a monochromatic wave is proportional to its intensity. This implies that if two EM waves have the same intensity, but different frequencies, the one with the higher frequency "contains" fewer photons, since each photon is more energetic.

When EM waves are absorbed by an object, the energy of the waves is converted to heat (or converted to electricity in case of a photoelectric material). This is a very familiar effect, since sunlight warms surfaces that it irradiates. Often this phenomenon is associated particularly with infrared radiation, but any kind of electromagnetic radiation will warm an object that absorbs it. EM waves can also be reflected or scattered, in which case their energy is redirected or redistributed as well.

Radiant energy is one of the mechanisms by which energy can enter or leave an open system.[8][9][10] Such a system can be man-made, such as a solar energy collector, or natural, such as the Earth's atmosphere. In geophysics, most atmospheric gases, including the greenhouse gases, allow the Sun's short-wavelength radiant energy to pass through to the Earth's surface, heating the ground and oceans. The absorbed solar energy is partly re-emitted as longer wavelength radiation (chiefly infrared radiation), some of which is absorbed by the atmospheric greenhouse gases. Radiant energy is produced in the sun as a result of nuclear fusion.[11]

Applications

Radiant energy is used for radiant heating.[12] It can be generated electrically by infrared lamps, or can be absorbed from sunlight and used to heat water. The heat energy is emitted from a warm element (floor, wall, overhead panel) and warms people and other objects in rooms rather than directly heating the air. Because of this, the air temperature may be lower than in a conventionally heated building, even though the room appears just as comfortable.

Various other applications of radiant energy have been devised.[13] These include treatment and inspection, separating and sorting, medium of control, and medium of communication. Many of these applications involve a source of radia

Various other applications of radiant energy have been devised.[13] These include treatment and inspection, separating and sorting, medium of control, and medium of communication. Many of these applications involve a source of radiant energy and a detector that responds to that radiation and provides a signal representing some characteristic of the radiation. Radiant energy detectors produce responses to incident radiant energy either as an increase or decrease in electric potential or current flow or some other perceivable change, such as exposure of photographic film.