An electromagnetic wave carries energy, and the amount of energy depends on the number of photons it transports each second. Scientists describe light and other electromagnetic energy in terms of photons when they treat it as a series of discrete particles. The amount of energy per photon depends on the wave's wavelength and frequency. A wave with a higher frequency, or a longer wavelength, transmits more energy with each photon.

Multiply the the Planck constant, 6.63 x 10^-34, by the wave's speed. Assuming the wave's speed to be the speed of light in a vacuum, which is 3 x 10^8 meters per second: 6.63 x 10^-34 x 3 x 10^8 = 1.99 x 10^-25.

Divide the result by the wave's wavelength. If you're calculating, for instance, for a wave with wavelength of 650 x 10^-9 meters: (1.99 x 10^-25) / (650 x 10^-9) = 3.06 x 10^-19

Divide the power of the wave by this answer. If, for instance, you are calculating all the photons emitted by a 100-watt bulb: 100 / (3.06 x 10^-19) = 3.27 x 10^20. This is the number of photons that the light carries each second.

References

Resources

About the Author

Ryan Menezes is a professional writer and blogger. He has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Boston University and has written for the American Civil Liberties Union, the marketing firm InSegment and the project management service Assembla. He is also a member of Mensa and the American Parliamentary Debate Association.

Photo Credits

Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images