How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 1067

How is infrared light produced?
There are many ways of producing infrared light. First, any warm surface emits infrared light. For example, a heat lamp or an electric space heater emits enormous amounts of it. That's because the thermal radiation of a warm object lies mostly in the invisible infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Second, many light-emitting electronic devices emit infrared light. For example, the light emitting diodes in a television remote control unit emit infrared light. In this case, the infrared light is emitted by electrons that are shifting from one group of quantum levels in a semiconductor to another group—from conduction levels to valence levels. This emission isn't thermal radiation; it doesn't involve heat.

Lastly, some infrared light is produced by lasers. In this case, excited atoms or atomic-like systems amplify passing infrared light to produce enormous numbers of identical light particles—identical photons. Infrared industrial lasers are commonly used to machine everything from greeting cards to steel plates.


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