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What Is Transparent In Physics

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Transparent Objects, Translucent Objects and Opaque Objects | Physics

We understood that opaque objects are those that do not allow any light to pass through them. The book cover, brick, and other such solid things you can think of are all opaque in nature. This means that you cannot see through such an object.

Translucent objects are those that come in between opaque and transparent materials. To understand translucent material, imagine a fogged-up glass window. If someone or something crosses a foggy window, you may be able to say that its a person or a dog but you cant tell who or sometimes even what it is. The details will not be easily discernible. This is because translucent objects let some light rays pass through them but not all.

The image below clearly illustrates the differences between transparent, translucent, and opaque surfaces.

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Difference Between Translucent And Transparent

May 24, 2012

Translucent vs Transparent

Transparent and translucent are two terms that are widely used in many fields, in physics. Basically these two terms can be used to describe some of the physical properties of a material. Translucent materials allow light to pass through them. Transparent materials not only allow light to pass through them but also allow the image formation. There are also many industrial applications of transparent and translucent materials. It is vital to have a good understanding in the concept of these two properties in order to understand the fields such as material science, optics etc. In this article, we are going to discuss what these two properties are, definitions of them, their similarities, and finally the difference between transparent and translucent.


Transparent materials allow light to pass through them. In most materials, electrons do not have available energy levels above them in the range of the visible light. That means there is no appreciable absorption. This makes some materials transparent. Transparent materials also follow the law of refraction.

Transparent materials appear clear, with the overall appearance of one color. They also may have a combination of colors to make a brilliant spectrum of every color. Many liquids and aqueous solutions are highly transparent. The molecular structure and the absence of defects are responsible for this.


Transparent vs Translucent

What Are Transparent Translucent And Opaque Materials

Transparent, translucent and opaque describes how visible light passes through a material.


A transparent material allows visible light to pass through it. Some of the light may be absorbed, but it is possible to see objects through the material. Familiar examples of transparent materials are air, water, some plastics and clear glass.

Translucent materials allow some light through them but it is scattered so it is impossible to see a clear image through the material. Examples of translucent materials are some plastics and frosted glass.

Opaque materials don’t let light through them at all. The light is either reflected or absorbed. Absorbed light heats up the material. Examples of opaque materials are stone, metals and some plastics.

The terms are meant to describe visible light. For example clear glass is transparent to visible light but opaque to ultraviolet light.

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Where Does Transparent Come From

The first records of the word transparent come from around 1400. It comes from the Medieval Latin verb transprre, meaning to show through, from trans-, meaning through, and the Latin verb prre, meaning to appear or to be visible .

Describing a process as transparent typically means that its completely visible and open to scrutinynothing is being hidden. This is especially used in the context of politicians, government agencies, and businesses and calls for them to be transparent. The opposite of this is being secretive.

The opposite of the literal sense of transparent is opaque, which describes things that cannot be seen through at all or that do not let any light pass through them. It can also be used as the opposite of some of the figurative senses of transparent: describing something as opaque can mean that its hard to understand.

What Is The Difference Between A Transparent Material And An Opaque One At The Atomic Level


What is the difference between a transparent material and an opaque one at the atomic level? I know that something is transparent to light because the energy of the photons that correspond to visible light does not match the transition energy of the atoms that make up that body. What happens when something is opaque? And why the angle of incidence is always equal to the angle of reflection? I know about the Fermat’s principle and all the mathematical arguments, but I was looking for a “physical picture” of the phenomenon.

  • $\begingroup$For physical causes of the Fermats principle, read Feynmans QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. The tl dr version is that photons propagate in all directions, not even in straight lines, but crazy paths get cancelled out. However, its possible to make use of this to construct a mirror where the angle of incidence is not equal to the angle of reflection .$\endgroup$ Roman OdaiskyOct 15, 2018 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$There are multiple separate questions contained here. It might be better to ask them individually on this stackexchange. The Q& A format just works better that way.$\endgroup$

Theres often nothing easily intuitive about the difference between transparent and opaque materials on an atomic level.

You are asking why the angle of reflection is always equal to the angle of incidence. This is a common misconception.

Now transparent materials are transparent because:

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Comparison Of Transparent Translucent And Opaque Objects

Transparent Substances

Light rays can pass through these substances. The refractive index of transparent substances is nearly uniform. Most of the light, incident on a transparent object, transmits through it. Light rays follow Snells law of refraction. While passing through a transparent object, the amount of scattering is very less. Therefore, a clear image is seen on the other side of the substance. Window glasses are transparent in nature. Transparent materials are used for lenses, spherical mirrors, spectacles, and many more.

Translucent Objects

A substance is called translucent if it allows partial transmission. The light rays get scattered in the interior of such objects. Consequently, the light rays emerge in random directions. If any object is seen through a translucent material, the image appears fuzzy or blurred. Translucency can occur due to the following properties,

  • Non-uniform Density: If a material has a non-uniform distribution of matter, its density is different at different parts. Such density distribution can result in irregular refraction and transmission. Density fluctuations may cause scattering centers. At the points of fluctuations, the light rays get scattered.

  • Crystallographic Defects: Defects in a crystal structure can give rise to a scattering of light.

  • Boundaries: Grain boundaries and cell boundaries can behave as scattering centers.

Some examples of translucent objects are frosted glass, butter paper, tissue, various plastics, and so on.

Different Ways Of Interacting With Light Rays

In real life, every object interacts with light rays in four basic ways. These are specular reflection, diffuse reflection, refraction and absorption.

In specular reflection, more simply known as reflection, light rays fall on a surface and most are then reflected in one direction . However, when light rays are reflected in more than one direction, its called diffuse reflection . Absorption involves most of the light rays being absorbed by the material itself .

Finally, refraction involves the transmission of light rays through a material .

Almost all materials react with light in all four of the ways mentioned above. Its just that, for most materials, there is always one way that is dominant over the other ways of light interaction. For example, lets consider a plain mirror .

The mirror certainly reflects a lot of light, so specular reflection is the most dominant form of its interaction with light rays. However, it should be noted that the mirror doesnt reflect all the light that strikes it. There is always some light thats absorbed a very small part of the light rays even get refracted in regular mirrors.

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What Determines Whether A Substance Is Transparent For Instance Why Is Silicon Transparent When It Is Glass But Not When It Is Sand Or A Computer Chip

Morton Tavel, a professor of physics at Vassar College, responds:

“The propagation of light through a solid is a complex process that involves not just the passage of the incident light but also reradiation of that light by the electronic structure of the solid. The convoluted combination of reflection and transmission explains why light moves more slowly through solids than through the air or through a vacuum.

“Simply stated, a solid material will appear transparent if there are no processes that compete with transmission, either by absorbing the light or by scattering it in other directions. In pure silicon, there is a very strong absorptive process at work: the incident visible light is absorbed by electrons that then move from one electron energy state to another . Glass, being silicon dioxide–not pure silicon–does not have this band structure, so it cannot absorb light as pure silicon does. Sand, on the other hand, is also silicon dioxide, but it is so filled with impurities that light simply scatters outward incoherently and does not pass through to a noticeable extent.

“The electronic structure of solids also explains why metals are shiny. Pure metals reflect light but do not transmit it, because they are filled with free electrons. These electrons reradiate the light in the direction opposite from which it arrived , but they interfere with the light that would proceed in the forward direction, preventing transmission.”

Where Does Light Energy Go When Absorbed

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You might wonder where the light energy goes when light is absorbed by a material. Energy is always conserved, so this energy must go somewhere!

The light energy is converted into thermal energy in other words, if a material absorbs light, it will heat up.

This is why, on a sunny day, it’s best to wear lighter-coloured clothing. Wearing darker colours absorbs more sunlight, which makes your clothes get hot.

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What Are Transparent Translucent And Opaque Objects

Materials can be classified based on the amount of light they transmit. Materials, which allow complete transmission of light, are called transparent. Any object can be seen through the transparent material. One example of transparent material is pure glass.

Opaque materials either reflect or absorb any incident light. As a result, light rays cannot pass through opaque materials. Wood, stone, etc., are opaque materials. Translucent materials allow partial transmission of light through them. A part of the incident light may get reflected or scattered as it passes through the interior of the material. Any object, seen through a translucent material, appears fuzzy or blurred. Some examples are oily paper, tissue, some plastics, etc.

Electron To Photon: You Don’t Excite Me

First, recall that electrons surround the nucleus of an atom, occupying different energy levels. To move from a lower to a higher energy level, an electron must gain energy. Oppositely, to move from a higher to a lower energy level, an electron must give up energy. In either case, the electron can only gain or release energy in discrete bundles.

Now let’s consider a photon moving toward and interacting with a solid substance. One of three things can happen:

  • The substance absorbs the photon. This occurs when the photon gives up its energy to an electron located in the material. Armed with this extra energy, the electron is able to move to a higher energy level, while the photon disappears.
  • The substance reflects the photon. To do this, the photon gives up its energy to the material, but a photon of identical energy is emitted.
  • The substance allows the photon to pass through unchanged. Known as transmission, this happens because the photon doesn’t interact with any electron and continues its journey until it interacts with another object.
  • Keep reading for more links that will illuminate your world.

    Originally Published: Jun 19, 2000

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    What Is Transparent Material

    A transparent material one that allows light to pass throughwith little absorption or distortion. If there is distortion, onemight use the term translucent instead of transparent.

    More technically, one refers to a materials as being able totransmit light for a particular range of color as being transparentin that color range. Water is transparent for light in the rangethat the human eye can detect, but just outside that range, itbecomes highly absorptive and would, if we could see, appear black.This is generally true for glass, air, salt and other materialswhich we would nominally characterize as transparent. Objects thatabsorb in a portion of the visible spectrum will transmit light

    that is a color formed from the portion of the spectrum that isnot absorbed .

    What Is Transparent Object

    Physics clipart physics logo design, Physics physics logo design ...
    • Any item placed on the other side of a transparent object can be seen clearly.
    • Light can pass totally through them.
    • A shadow doesnt form in transparent objects because they dont block any light.
    • You can clearly see the other side through a transparent object.
    • They are also called see-through objects because you see through them as clear as day.

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    Examples Of Transparent In A Sentence

    transparenttransparenttransparent Forbestransparent Outside Onlinetransparent FortunetransparentRobb ReporttransparentThe Salt Lake TribunetransparentABC Newstransparent Anchorage Daily NewstransparentBaltimore Sun

    These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word ‘transparent.’ Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

    What Is The Difference Between The Words Transparent And Translucent

    Merriam Webster defines transparent as:

    Having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly.

    And translucent as:

    Transmitting and diffusing light so that objects beyond cannot be seen clearly.

    Now if you see any object through a lens or a bottle filled with water then most of the times whatever you see is not at all clear. What does this signify? Are these two transparent or translucent? Or is their behaviour conditional to how we see through them?

    Lenses and glass bottles are transparent. As you quoted above, the different has to do with diffusion.

    Here is an example of an image through a transparent object:

    Here is an example of a translucent object:

    This is an example of how diffusion causes translucency:

    As light passes through a translucent object, it either enters or exists a rough surface that causes light to reflect and refract at a bunch of different angles. This causes the image through the glass to be very blurry.

    When you look through a glass or lens and object isn’t clear, that’s because it isn’t focused, not because of diffusion. There are many reasons why images won’t be focused but most have to do with the lens not being shaped perfectly or different behavior for different colors of light. See Wikipedia on optical aberrations for more information on this.

    Here is an example of a perfect lens versus a lens with a spherical aberration :

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    Difference Between Transparent And Translucent Materials

    Both substances allow light to pass through them. Transparent objects can transmit a significant part of the incoming light. The light is hardly reflected or scattered. Transparent objects appear to be colorless as they do not reflect light. Translucent materials allow partial transmission of light rays. These materials form hazy or blurred images of objects seen through them.

    However, opaque objects are free from all the efforts that transparent and translucent objects make on light they simply block all the light that is exposed to them.

    Transparent Translucent And Opaque

    Why is glass transparent?

    This article includes the topics such as transparent translucent and opaque, transparent translucent and opaque diagrams and transparent translucent and opaque light.

    Table of Content

    In our daily lives, we use a lot of goods or objects. The materials used to create these goods or artefacts are diverse. The furniture we use in our daily lives, for example, is composed of wood. Metals, ceramics, and plastic are used to make the cooking containers. Materials are the substances that an object is made of or can be constructed of. The characteristics of various materials vary. As a result, depending on the purpose or application, the material must be chosen accordingly. Chalk made of wood or plastic, for example, would be useless because it could not write on the blackboard.

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    Absorption Of Light In Solids

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    When light strikes an object, it usually has not just a single frequency but many. Objects have a tendency to selectively absorb, reflect or transmit light of certain frequencies. That is, one object might reflect green light while absorbing all other frequencies of visible light. Another object might selectively transmit blue light while absorbing all other frequencies of visible light. The manner in which visible light interacts with an object is dependent upon the frequency of the light, the nature of the atoms in the object, and often the nature of the electrons in the atoms of the object.

    Some materials allow much of the light that falls on them to be transmitted through the material without being reflected. Materials that allow the transmission of light waves through them are called optically transparent. Chemically pure window glass and clean river or spring water are prime examples of this.

    Absorption centers are largely responsible for the appearance of specific wavelengths of visible light all around us. Moving from longer to shorter wavelengths: red, orange, yellow, green and blue can all be identified by our senses in the appearance of color by the selective absorption of specific light wave frequencies . Mechanisms of selective light wave absorption include:

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