Absorptivity, Reflectivity, and Transmissivity

By | April 21, 2018

Absorptivity, Reflectivity, and Transmissivity

Everything around us constantly emits radiation (for heat transfer), and the emissivity represents the emission characteristics of those bodies.

This means that every body, including our own, is constantly bombarded by radiation coming from all directions over a range of wavelengths.

Coming directly to our topic let us discuss each term one by one.


The radiation flux incident on a surface is called irradiation and is denoted by G.

Diagram showing Absorptivity, Reflectivity, and Transmissivity

When radiation strikes a surface, part of it is absorbed, part of it is reflected, and the remaining part, if any, is transmitted, as illustrated in Figure (1).


The fraction of irradiation absorbed by the surface is called the absorptivity α,


The fraction of radiation reflected by the surface is called the reflectivity ρ,


The fraction of radiation transmitted is called the transmissivity τ.

That is,

diagram showing formula of Absorptivity, Reflectivity, and Transmissivity

Where G is the radiation energy incident on the surface, and Gabs, Gref, and Gtr are the absorbed, reflected, and transmitted portions of it, respectively.

The first law of thermodynamics requires that the sum of the absorbed, reflected, and transmitted radiation energy be equal to the incident radiation. That is,

Gabs + Gref + Gtr = G

Dividing each term of this relation by G yields


For opaque surfaces, τ=0, and thus


This is an important property relation since it enables us to determine both the absorptivity and reflectivity of an opaque surface by measuring either of these properties.

Also read?

What is a path function?

What is availability?

What is two property rule?

External Supplement

Absorbance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorptance

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