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Lumen

A measurement of light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point source of one candle intensity.

The lumen (symbol: lm) is the SI derived unit of luminous flux, a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. Luminous flux differs from power (radiant flux) in that radiant flux includes all electromagnetic waves emitted, while luminous flux is weighted according to a model (a "luminosity function") of the human eye's sensitivity to various wavelengths. Lumens are related to lux in that one lux is one lumen per square meter.

A full sphere has a solid angle of 4π steradians, so a light source that uniformly radiates one candela in all directions has a total luminous flux of 1 cd × 4π sr = 4π cd⋅sr ≈ 12.57 lumens.

If a light source emits one candela of luminous intensity uniformly across a solid angle of one steradian, the total luminous flux emitted into that angle is one lumen (1 cd·1 sr = 1 lm). Alternatively, an isotropic one-candela light-source emits a total luminous flux of exactly 4π lumens. If the source were partly covered by an ideal absorbing hemisphere, that system would radiate half as much luminous flux—only 2π lumens. The luminous intensity would still be one candela in those directions that are not obscured.

The lumen can be thought of casually as a measure of the total "amount" of visible light in some defined beam or angle, or emitted from some source. The number of candelas or lumens from a source also depends on its spectrum, via the nominal response of the human eye as represented in the luminosity function.

The difference between the units lumen and lux is that the lux takes into account the area over which the luminous flux is spread. A flux of 1000 lumens, concentrated into an area of one square metre, lights up that square metre with an illuminance of 1000 lux. The same 1000 lumens, spread out over ten square metres, produces a dimmer illuminance of only 100 lux. Mathematically, 1 lx = 1 lm/m2.

A source radiating a power of one watt of light in the color for which the eye is most efficient (a wavelength of 555 nm, in the green region of the optical spectrum) has luminous flux of 683 lumens. So a lumen represents at least 1/683 watts of visible light power, depending on the spectral distribution.

Key Terms

candela
lm
lumen
lumens
luminous flux
lux
measure
radiant flux
source
total luminous flux

Additional Resources

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Acronymn

lm

Synonymns

Lumen
(none found)

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Last modified on May 18 2019
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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