When light strikes an opaque material the wavelengths that are not reflected are absorbed and their energy is converted to heat (notice that absorption has a ‘p’).
- When sunlight strikes an opaque object or material, it can be reflected or absorbed.
- If light is reflected it bounces off at the same wavelength.
- If light is absorbed, the short wavelength energy is changed to longer wavelengths that produce heat near the infrared.
- Of the light that reaches Earth’s surface from the sun:
- 54% is already heat (infrared) before it reaches the earth’s atmosphere.
- 45% is visible light.
- 1% is shorter wavelengths (ultraviolet).
- Absorption of a particular wavelength of light into a material takes place when the frequency of the wave matches the frequency at which electrons in the atoms of that material vibrate.
- Because the electrons in different atoms and molecules have different frequencies they selectively absorb different frequencies of visible light.