Optics 101


Scattering is a basic physical process that involves any one type of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles. For example, in light scattering, light is the form of propagating energy which is scattered.

Scattering occurs when radiation is forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more paths because of localized non-uniformities in the medium via which it passes.

Radiation that is scattered by one localized scattering center is called single scattering. However it is more common for scattering centers to be grouped together, and thereby causing the radiation to scatter many times, which is termed as multiple scattering.

The key difference between the effects of single and multiple scattering is that single scattering can usually be treated as a random phenomenon whereas multiple scattering is usually more stochastic. Reflections that undergo scattering are called diffuse reflections.

The concept of scattering has given rise to light scattering media optics, a branch of optical physics that studies light propagation in different inhomogeneous media such as atmosphere and ocean, where the concept of light scattering plays a very significant role.

Types of Scattering

The following are the types of scattering:

  • Rayleigh scattering
  • Mie scattering
  • Tyndall scattering
  • Brillouin scattering
  • Raman scattering


Scattering and scattering theory are used in the following areas:

  • Acoustic tiling
  • Radar sensing
  • Medical ultrasound
  • Free-space communications
  • Computer-generated imagery
  • Semiconductor wafer inspection
  • Polymerization process monitoring.


  • Light Scattering Media Optics - University of Bremen
  • Optical Scattering and Surface Roughness - Eckhardt Optics LLC

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this article?

Leave your feedback