Optics 101

What is Transparency?

In optics, transparency, also referred to as pellucidity or diaphaneity, is the physical property of allowing light to pass via the material without being scattered.

Most liquids and aqueous solutions are highly transparent. For instance, water, rubbing alcohol, cooking oil, air, and natural gas are all clear. This is because there are no structural defects and molecular structure in most liquids, thus allowing excellent optical transmission.

In most cases, transparent materials are clear with a general appearance of one color. Sometimes they tend to be made up of many combinations, thereby causing a radiant spectrum of every color.

Certain materials allow much of the light that falls on them to be transmitted through the material without being reflected. These materials are classified as optically transparent. Undoped window glass and clean river/spring water are examples of optically transparency.

Optical transparency in polycrystalline materials is restricted by the quantity of light that is scattered by their microstructural properties.

Transparency has been widely explored by engineers and scientists. In the recent years, transparent ceramics have been used in several applications such as transparent armor windows, nose cones for heat seeking missiles, space exploration, high energy lasers, high energy physics, radiation detectors for non- destructive testing, security and medical imaging applications.

There is also vast development of transparent panel products, which will in turn assist in the other potential advanced applications such as high strength, impact-resistant materials that can be used for domestic windows and skylights. The infrared transparent materials that are being created in the recent years strike a good balance among optical performance, mechanical strength and pricing.

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