I would like to know the reason that some materials allow light to pass (transparent), blocks it a little (translucent), or completely reflects or absorbs it (opaque.) I'm don't have a PhD, so answer this in a way that is easy to understand.

  • $\begingroup$ A physics questions- its no doubt a duplicate of a question in that StackExchange. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Neither I am an active user of physics nor I have copied from it. Thanks for helping me @user2617804 $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ Metals are opaque by virtue of a 'sea' of electrons, which reflect the light. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


Opacity or transparence is a matter of light reflection.

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The way light is reflected or absorbed depends on severals parameters, first the composition of your material. If it contains molecules or crystals absorbing the visible light, you'll see it black, or colored with the color corresponding to the wavelenght the less absorbed.

There is also crystallographic considerations to take care of. If your material structure is well ordered, dimension of your latice will be set so to reflect the light, then you'll see it transluscent or opaque. For something without ordered structure, you'll probably see it transparent if the visible light isn't absorbed. We'll speak about "amorphous" material then like glass for instance.

edit : if you feel easy with those concepts, I can go further in the explainations, but since you asked for a really vulgarized answer I haven't developed more.


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