Continuous and Line Sources

A source of electromagnetic radiation must provide an output that is both intense and stable. Sources of electromagnetic radiation are classified as either continuum or line sources. A continuum source emits radiation over a broad range of wavelengths, with a relatively smooth variation in intensity. For example, the emission spectrum for a green LED provides continuous emission over a wavelength range of approximately 530–640 nm.


A line source, on the other hand, emits radiation at discrete wavelengths. For example, the emission spectrum from a Cu hollow cathode lamp consists of seven distinct emission lines (the first two differ by only 0.4 nm and are not resolved in this spectrum). Each emission line has a width of approximately 0.01 nm at ½ of its maximum intensity.


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