Optical Physics | Materials Science | Corning

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What is Optical Physics?

What is Optical Physics?

Corning’s deep understanding of optics helps shed
light in areas even the eye can’t see.

What is Optical Physics?

Optical physics is the study of light and its interaction with matter.

This scientific field has a natural pairing with glass technology since the successful performance of so many specialty glass applications — optical fiber, display panels, semiconductor systems, and some drug-development tools, to name just a few — depend on the way they transmit, process, or manipulate light. And different glass compositions and forms will interact with light in different ways.

Most of us think of light as an illuminating energy. With light, we can see things. Without it, we’re in the dark.

To optical physicists, though, light is a series of electromagnetic waves that vary widely in their frequency and wavelengths. Besides visible light, they study forms of light with frequencies that are too low or too high for the human eye to sense. Infrared radiation, for example, detects heat — and therefore, signs of life and activity. Radio waves, microwaves, radar, and X-rays are all other forms of light, and each have a unique way of interacting with glass and other matter.

Why is optical physics significant? Here’s just one example: The smartphone in your pocket carries extremely small light-emitting diodes, enabling backlit screens that use amazingly small amounts of battery power. The combination of that now-ubiquitous innovation with the specialty glasses that surround it have forever transformed the way we connect with the world.

Read featured facts about Optical Physics.