AQA GCSE Physics

Revision Notes

6.3.5 Reflection from Surfaces

Specular & Diffuse Reflection

Specular Reflection

  • Specular reflection is defined as:

Reflection from a smooth surface in a single direction

  • When light reflects off a smooth surface, such as a mirror, specular reflection occurs
    • This is what gives a mirror its shiny appearance
  • This is why a reflection can be seen clearly in a mirror
  • In this case, the angle of reflection r is equal to the angle of incidence i

Light Reflection, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

When reflecting off a mirror, the specular reflection occurs. The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection

Diffuse Reflection

  • Diffuse reflection is defined as:

Reflection from a rough surface causes scattering

  • When light reflects off a rough surface, which applies to the majority of surfaces, diffuse reflection occurs
    • This is what gives objects a dull or matt appearance
  • This is why a reflection cannot be seen clearly from a table surface, for example
    • Even though a table’s surface may look smooth from afar, it is actually made up of many tiny ridges which the light rays are scattered off
  • When light scatters, it leaves the surface in all directions

diffuse-reflection, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

When light is reflected from the majority of surfaces it is scattered – a process known as diffuse reflection

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