13 Diffuse Reflection Examples: Detailed Insight And Facts

This article discusses about diffuse reflection examples. Reflection is simply the bouncing back of light whenever it falls on a polished surface.

The reflection can be of many types depending upon the type of object it is falling on and the environmental conditions. This article will discuss about the definition of diffuse reflection first, and then about diffuse reflection examples.

What is reflection?

Before knowing about diffuse reflection, let us first get a clear idea on what is the true meaning of reflection.

Reflection is nothing but the bouncing back of light. This happens when it falls on a polished or shiny surface. Due to this phenomenon we can see different types of images in mirrors. The image type depends upon the type of mirror or the reflecting surface.

What is diffuse reflection?

In specular reflection, the incident ray will fall on the reflecting surface and get reflected back in one direction only. Whereas in diffuse reflection the case is not the same.

In diffuse reflection, the incident ray falls on the mirror and gets reflected back into multiple directions. This is something which does not happen in conventional specular reflection. This type of reflection takes place due to the rough nature of the reflecting surface.

How diffuse reflection is formed?

The sole reason for a reflection to be diffused is the surface of the reflecting object. When a rough surface is used for reflection, diffuse reflection takes place.

Diffuse reflection is quite normal because no matter how polished a surface is, irregularities are always there. And where there are irregularities, there is diffuse reflection. Even tiny imperfections can cause diffuse reflection.

Diffuse reflection example

Every thing we see around is a result of diffuse reflection taking place. If we see closely, no object is completely smooth. They all have some irregularities taking place. Now these irregularities are what causes diffuse reflection.

Let us look at some examples of diffuse reflection given below-

Bicycle reflectors

These reflectors are made in such a way that when light falls on them they illuminate spreading red light in multiple directions.

Clothing

Clothes absorb some of the light and reflect some of the light. For example black coloured clothes absorb major part of the light falling on it whereas white clothes will reflect most of the light falling on it.

Paper

A paper acts as transluscent film which allows only a certain portion of light to pass through and reflects remaining light in to multiple directions.

Butter paper

Butter paper also absorbs some portion of the light and reflect remaining part of the light in other directions.

Translucent film

As discussed above, a transluscent fil will reflect some of the light in multiple directions.  

Cardboard

A cardboard has a rough surface which results in uneven reflection of light or diffuse reflection.

Rough surface finish on wood

An improper finish on wood will produce uneven reflection.

Car body covered with dust

Dust particles get settled on the car’s surface creating a rough surface. This roughness causes diffuse reflection when light rays fall on the car’s surface.

Metals covered with dust

Dust particles act as irregularities on the surface of the metals. These irregularities will produce diffuse reflection.

Plastic toys having scratches on it

Plastic toys will show specular reflection when their surfaces are polished but will show diffuse reflection when there are scratches on it.

Rough plywood

A rough plywood won’t completely reflect the light as a polished plywood does. The light will be reflected in multiple directions giving out an improper reflection.

Glass having scratches

Scratches act as irregularities and thus give rise to diffuse reflection.

Phone cover with broken glass

A broke glass will make the reflecting surface uneven. Uneven surfaces will give rise to diffuse reflections.

Materials with matte finish

Matte finish is a rough finish which produces hazy images of the objects places near them. This is also an example of diffuse reflection.

Uses of diffuse reflection

Almost everything we see around the world is due to diffuse reflection taking place. The uses of diffuse reflection are given below-

  • Camera– A camera uses diffuse reflection principle to capture vivid objects.
  • Absorption spectra/ Spectroscopy- Diffuse spectroscopy is used to find the absorption spectra of powdered samples in those cases where transmission spectroscopy won’t work.
  • Coloured objects- Colours of objects are determined by the average deflection of the wavelength of light.
  • Importance for vision– Almost everything we see around us is due to diffuse reflection. Only those things which emit light on their own for example sun and those reflections coming out of polished surfaces are not an example of diffue reflection. The sky is blue in colour due to Rayleigh scattering and is an example of diffuse reflection.
  • Interreflection– in Computer graphics, to achieve global illumnation, difuse interreflection is used.

Diffuse reflection vs Regular reflection

The table below shows the differences between diffuse reflection and regular reflection-

Diffuse reflectionRegular reflection
The incident ray is scattered in multiple directions.The incident ray is scattered only in one direction.
Forms a blurry image. Forms a clear image.
 It can happen that no image is formed It forms an image always.
 Happens on rough surfaces. Happens on smooth surfaces only.
Table: Difference between diffuse reflection and regular reflection

Diffuse reflection vs scattering

The table shown below gives the differences between diffuse reflection vs Scattering. Although both may appear similar but have many differences associated with them.

Diffuse ReflectionScattering
In diffuse reflection, absorption does not take place.In scattering, the light waves undergo complete absorption and then the waves are scattered/dispersed.
The wavelength of the light does not get changed.The wavelength of the light changes after scattering takes place. The best example is the colour of sky when sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere.
The waves bounce up after falling on the reflecting surface. The waves get absorbed by the surface and then they are dispersed in multiple directions.
Table: Difference between diffuse reflection and scattering
diffuse reflection examples
Image: Scattering

Image credits: KCVelagaElectron-scatteringCC BY-SA 4.0

What is specular reflection?

Specular reflection is the conventional reflection which takes place when a ray of light falls on a reflected surface and gets bounced back in a single direction.

This is the case that usually takes place when light falls on a smooth and polished surface. The examples of specular reflection include- reflection from a conventional mirror, water bodies etc.

What causes diffuse reflection?

In the above section, we got an idea about how a diffuse reflection take place Let us dig deeper into its mechanism.

When the light rays fall on a rough surface, the light rays are actually hitting a plane having a lot of irregularitites. Due to these irregularities, the reflected rays also get an irregular direction causing an uneven reflection or diffuse reflection.

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