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Thermal Radiation = Infrared Radiation GCSE P1

• All objects emit thermal radiation.


This is a type of Electro-Magnetic (EM) wave, and is often called Infra-Red (IR) Radiation.

• The hotter an object is, the more thermal radiation it emits.


IR cameras are often used on wildlife programs
or by the police (or James Bond) to “see” in the
dark or at night-time.

Even if it is pitch black and there is no light


around, you can still give away your position
due to your thermal energy.

On this IR picture of an elephant, why is the


ground much darker than the elephant?

What is the hottest part of this elephant?

• When an object emits thermal radiation it loses thermal energy.

• Black is a better absorber and emitter than White/Shiny.


Dark surfaces emit more radiation than light (e.g. white), shiny surfaces. They also absorb
radiation more effectively.

• IR radiation behaves like light.


IR radiation is part of the EM Spectrum – an extremely important aspect of physics. Radio
waves, microwaves, ultraviolet (UV) light, visible light, Gamma radiation and X-rays are all
part of this spectrum, so they all behave in a similar way.

http://phy.si
Thermal Radiation = Infrared Radiation GCSE P1
Questions

1. Why are thermal blankets (the kind used by mountain rescue teams) made to be shiny?

2. Why is it a bad idea to wear black clothes in the summer?

3. Why is the inner part of a thermos flask shiny?

4. Solar panels are designed to capture energy from the Sun. Is it better for them to be
black or shiny?

5. Houses in hot countries are often painted white. Why is this?

6. Radiators (the kind that heat your home) are often painted white. They are therefore,
technically, poor radiators of thermal energy. Why might this be a good idea?

http://phy.si