Thermal Radiation = Infrared Radiation GCSE P1

x All objects emit thermal radiation.

This is a type of Electro­Magnetic (EM) wave, and is often called Infra­Red (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 night­time. 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. x

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 X­rays are all part of this spectrum, so they all behave in a similar way.

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?

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