What Is Solar Radiation?
The world can’t function without solar radiation. Although this fact is true, many people don’t know what solar radiation is. Also, many people don’t know what solar radiation does. As well, many people don’t know why solar radiation is so important to not only our daily lives, but for planet Earth as a whole.
Solar radiation might be a term that you are unfamiliar with, or so you think. Solar radiation is also commonly referred to as solar resource or even sunlight. Yes, walk out on a cloudless day and you are exposed to solar radiation. Look at an image drawn by a kid of a happy landscape and odds are , in the upper left or right corner is the sun spewing out imaginary waves of solar radiation.
Solar radiation is the term given to the electromagnetic radiation rays emitted by the sun. However, not all of these electromagnetic radiation is delivered to earth in the same way. For instance, some solar radiation is stranger than others.
The Two Main Types of Solar Energy
There are two groups of the main type of solar energy. These two types are of solar energy are called diffuse solar radiation and direct solar radiation.
Diffuse solar radiation is the less powerful type of solar energy. This happens when the sun’s UV rays come through the atmosphere and passes through weather conditions that occur on earth. This includes anything from dust, pollutants, clouds, water, vapour, air molecules and more. These aspects of the earth’s atmosphere decreases the amount of energy that reaches the earth’s surface. Therefor, diffused solar radiation is less powerful.
Direct solar radiation is the powerful type of solar energy. This happens when the sun’s UV rays come through the atmosphere and does not pass through any weather conditions. As there are no filters to decrease the amount of energy that these solar rays have, they are more powerful when they hit the earth.
Wave Lengths and Why They Matter
In order for the sun to send it’s energy to Earth, the sun must send it’s power in waves. There are three different wave lengths that sunlight travels to earth’s surface in. These wavelengths carry different amounts of power with them. These radiation waves can be short in length or long in length.
There are seven types of wavelengths from the sun to consider. These wavelengths are radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma ray. Each of these rays from the sun vary in wavelength size. It’s important to know that the smaller the wavelength, the more powerful it is. Accounting from this, it’s also important to know the longer the wave length, the less powerful it is.
The first solar radiation that you should know is radio waves. Radio waves can have a length anywhere between 1 mm and 100 km. Radio waves are longer in length than microwaves. It is the least powerful kind of sun power. Radio waves work at a frequency of anywhere from 300 GHz to 3 kHz.
The second type of solar energy that you should notice is microwave waves. Microwave rays are shorter than radio waves but longer than infrared rays. Microwave rays can have a length anywhere from 1mm to 1m. Microwave waves work at a frequency of anywhere from 1 GHz to 300 GHz.
The next kind of sunlight that you can get informed about is infrared light. Infrared rays are shorter than microwave waves but longer than visible rays. Infrared rays can have a length anywhere from 1nm to 1mm. Infrared waves work at a frequency of anywhere from 300 GHz to 400 THz.
Visible light is the next form of sunlight. Visible rays are shorter than infrared waves but longer than ultraviolet rays. Visible rays can have a length anywhere from 380nm to 700nm. Visible waves work at a frequency of anywhere from 6.24×1014Hz to 6.24×1014Hz.
Visible light can be seen from by the naked human eye. We, as humans, see visible light in seven different colours. These colours are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
Continuing on, another form of sunlight is ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet rays are shorter than visible waves but longer than X-ray rays. Ultraviolet rays can have a length anywhere from 400nm to 10nm. Ultraviolet waves work at a frequency of anywhere from 8 × 1014 Hz to 3 × 1016Hz.
When the sun’s rays reaches the earth, it could come in the form of an X-ray power. X-ray rays are shorter than ultraviolet waves but longer than gamma rays. X-ray rays can have a length anywhere from 10mm to 0.01m. X-ray rays waves work at a frequency of anywhere from 10−8 to 10−12 Hz to 1016 to 1020 Hz.
Now we get to the most powerful kind of of sun rays which are gamma rays. Gamma rays are shorter than X-ray rays. Gamma rays can have a length anywhere less then 10pm. Gamma ray rays waves work at a frequency of 10^19 Hz.
As gamma rays have extremely short wavelengths, they can penetrate surfaces with ease. Gamma rays also have the highest photon energy of any of the suns rays.
One use for gamma radiation is to harness it’s power to penetrate the skin and defeat human ailments such as cancer. By doing this, this is called radiotherapy. This is an effective way to treat cancer as gamma rays can kill tumours and erase dead skin cells.
However, it’s interesting to know that gamma rays can also be deadly. Yes, gamma rays can heal cancer, but it can also cause it in the first place. Likewise, gamma rays can also penetrate the body so that it weakens internal organs and bones.
To end off, to answer the question of “which type of solar radiation is the most powerful”, the answer is gamma rays.