In radiometry, irradiance is the radiant flux received by a surface per unit area. The SI unit of irradiance is the watt per square metre (W⋅m^{−2}). The CGS unit erg per square centimetre per second (erg⋅cm^{−2}⋅s^{−1}) is often used in astronomy. Irradiance is often called intensity, but this term is avoided in radiometry where such usage leads to confusion with radiant intensity. In astrophysics, irradiance is called radiant flux.^{[1]}
Spectral irradiance is the irradiance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength, depending on whether the spectrum is taken as a function of frequency or of wavelength. The two forms have different dimensions and units: spectral irradiance of a frequency spectrum is measured in watts per square metre per hertz (W⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1}), while spectral irradiance of a wavelength spectrum is measured in watts per square metre per metre (W⋅m^{−3}), or more commonly watts per square metre per nanometre (W⋅m^{−2}⋅nm^{−1}).
Irradiance of a surface, denoted E_{e} ("e" for "energetic", to avoid confusion with photometric quantities), is defined as^{[2]}
where
If we want to talk about the radiant flux emitted by a surface, we speak of radiant exitance.
Spectral irradiance in frequency of a surface, denoted E_{e,ν}, is defined as^{[2]}
where ν is the frequency.
Spectral irradiance in wavelength of a surface, denoted E_{e,λ}, is defined as^{[2]}
where λ is the wavelength.
Irradiance of a surface is also, according to the definition of radiant flux, equal to the time-average of the component of the Poynting vector perpendicular to the surface:
where
For a propagating sinusoidal linearly polarized electromagnetic plane wave, the Poynting vector always points to the direction of propagation while oscillating in magnitude. The irradiance of a surface is then given by^{[3]}
where
This formula assumes that the magnetic susceptibility is negligible; i.e. that μ_{r} ≈ 1 where μ_{r} is the magnetic permeability of the propagation medium. This assumption is typically valid in transparent media in the optical frequency range.
A point source of light produces spherical wavefronts. The irradiance in this case varies inversely with the square of the distance from the source.
where
For quick approximations, this equation indicates that doubling the distance reduces irradiation to one quarter; or similarly, to double irradiation, reduce the distance to 0.7.
In astronomy, stars are routinely treated as point sources even though they are much larger than the Earth. This is a good approximation because the distance from even a nearby star to the Earth is much larger than the star's diameter. For instance, the irradiance of Alpha Centauri A (radiant flux: 1.5 L_{☉}, distance: 4.34 ly) is about 2.7 × 10^{−8} W/m^{2} on Earth.
The global irradiance on a horizontal surface on Earth consists of the direct irradiance E_{e,dir} and diffuse irradiance E_{e,diff}. On a tilted plane, there is another irradiance component, E_{e,refl}, which is the component that is reflected from the ground. The average ground reflection is about 20% of the global irradiance. Hence, the irradiance E_{e} on a tilted plane consists of three components:^{[4]}
The integral of solar irradiance over a time period is called "solar exposure" or "insolation".^{[4]}^{[5]}
Quantity | Unit | Dimension | Notes | ||
---|---|---|---|---|---|
Name | Symbol^{[nb 1]} | Name | Symbol | ||
Radiant energy | Q_{e}^{[nb 2]} | joule | J | M⋅L^{2}⋅T^{−2} | Energy of electromagnetic radiation. |
Radiant energy density | w_{e} | joule per cubic metre | J/m^{3} | M⋅L^{−1}⋅T^{−2} | Radiant energy per unit volume. |
Radiant flux | Φ_{e}^{[nb 2]} | watt | W = J/s | M⋅L^{2}⋅T^{−3} | Radiant energy emitted, reflected, transmitted or received, per unit time. This is sometimes also called "radiant power", and called luminosity in Astronomy. |
Spectral flux | Φ_{e,ν}^{[nb 3]} | watt per hertz | W/Hz | M⋅L^{2}⋅T^{ −2} | Radiant flux per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅nm^{−1}. |
Φ_{e,λ}^{[nb 4]} | watt per metre | W/m | M⋅L⋅T^{−3} | ||
Radiant intensity | I_{e,Ω}^{[nb 5]} | watt per steradian | W/sr | M⋅L^{2}⋅T^{−3} | Radiant flux emitted, reflected, transmitted or received, per unit solid angle. This is a directional quantity. |
Spectral intensity | I_{e,Ω,ν}^{[nb 3]} | watt per steradian per hertz | W⋅sr^{−1}⋅Hz^{−1} | M⋅L^{2}⋅T^{−2} | Radiant intensity per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅sr^{−1}⋅nm^{−1}. This is a directional quantity. |
I_{e,Ω,λ}^{[nb 4]} | watt per steradian per metre | W⋅sr^{−1}⋅m^{−1} | M⋅L⋅T^{−3} | ||
Radiance | L_{e,Ω}^{[nb 5]} | watt per steradian per square metre | W⋅sr^{−1}⋅m^{−2} | M⋅T^{−3} | Radiant flux emitted, reflected, transmitted or received by a surface, per unit solid angle per unit projected area. This is a directional quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity". |
Spectral radiance Specific intensity |
L_{e,Ω,ν}^{[nb 3]} | watt per steradian per square metre per hertz | W⋅sr^{−1}⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1} | M⋅T^{−2} | Radiance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅sr^{−1}⋅m^{−2}⋅nm^{−1}. This is a directional quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity". |
L_{e,Ω,λ}^{[nb 4]} | watt per steradian per square metre, per metre | W⋅sr^{−1}⋅m^{−3} | M⋅L^{−1}⋅T^{−3} | ||
Irradiance Flux density |
E_{e}^{[nb 2]} | watt per square metre | W/m^{2} | M⋅T^{−3} | Radiant flux received by a surface per unit area. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity". |
Spectral irradiance Spectral flux density |
E_{e,ν}^{[nb 3]} | watt per square metre per hertz | W⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1} | M⋅T^{−2} | Irradiance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity". Non-SI units of spectral flux density include jansky (1 Jy = 10^{−26} W⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1}) and solar flux unit (1 sfu = 10^{−22} W⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1} = 10^{4} Jy). |
E_{e,λ}^{[nb 4]} | watt per square metre, per metre | W/m^{3} | M⋅L^{−1}⋅T^{−3} | ||
Radiosity | J_{e}^{[nb 2]} | watt per square metre | W/m^{2} | M⋅T^{−3} | Radiant flux leaving (emitted, reflected and transmitted by) a surface per unit area. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity". |
Spectral radiosity | J_{e,ν}^{[nb 3]} | watt per square metre per hertz | W⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1} | M⋅T^{−2} | Radiosity of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅m^{−2}⋅nm^{−1}. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity". |
J_{e,λ}^{[nb 4]} | watt per square metre, per metre | W/m^{3} | M⋅L^{−1}⋅T^{−3} | ||
Radiant exitance | M_{e}^{[nb 2]} | watt per square metre | W/m^{2} | M⋅T^{−3} | Radiant flux emitted by a surface per unit area. This is the emitted component of radiosity. "Radiant emittance" is an old term for this quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity". |
Spectral exitance | M_{e,ν}^{[nb 3]} | watt per square metre per hertz | W⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1} | M⋅T^{−2} | Radiant exitance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅m^{−2}⋅nm^{−1}. "Spectral emittance" is an old term for this quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity". |
M_{e,λ}^{[nb 4]} | watt per square metre, per metre | W/m^{3} | M⋅L^{−1}⋅T^{−3} | ||
Radiant exposure | H_{e} | joule per square metre | J/m^{2} | M⋅T^{−2} | Radiant energy received by a surface per unit area, or equivalently irradiance of a surface integrated over time of irradiation. This is sometimes also called "radiant fluence". |
Spectral exposure | H_{e,ν}^{[nb 3]} | joule per square metre per hertz | J⋅m^{−2}⋅Hz^{−1} | M⋅T^{−1} | Radiant exposure of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in J⋅m^{−2}⋅nm^{−1}. This is sometimes also called "spectral fluence". |
H_{e,λ}^{[nb 4]} | joule per square metre, per metre | J/m^{3} | M⋅L^{−1}⋅T^{−2} | ||
See also: |