Stefan-Boltzmann Law (Edexcel International A Level Physics)

Revision Note

Katie M


Katie M



Stefan-Boltzmann Law

  • An objects luminosity depends on two factors:
    • Its surface temperature
    • Its surface area

  • The relationship between these is known as the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, which states:

The total energy emitted by a black body per unit area per second is proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature of the body

  • So, L AT4

  • The Stefan-Boltzmann Law equation is:

L = σAT4

  • Where:
    • L = luminosity of the star (W)
    • A = surface area of the star
    • σ = the Stefan-Boltzmann constant
    • T = surface temperature of the star (K)

  • The surface area of a star (or other spherical object) can be calculated using:

A = 4πr2

  • Where:
    • r = radius of the star

Worked example

A camel has a body temperature of 40°C and a surface area of 16 m2. The peak wavelength of the emitted spectrum from the camel is λmax = 8.6 × 10–6 m. Calculate the total power radiated by the camel.

Step 1: List the known quantities

    • Surface area, A = 16 m2
    • Temperature (in K), T = 40 + 273 = 313 K
    • Stefan-Boltzmann constant, σ = 5.67 × 10–8 W m−2 K−4

Step 2: Write down the Stefan-Boltzmann equation

L = σAT4

Step 3: Substitute in the values

L = (5.67 × 10–8) × 16 × 3134 = 8707 W

Step 4: Write the answer to correct significant figures and include units

Luminosity (power emitted) of the camel = 8700 W (2 s.f.)

Exam Tip

Remember to convert temperatures into Kelvin.

If you are given the radius of a spherical object then its surface area A can be calculated using A = 4πrfor the radius of the object r

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Katie M

Author: Katie M

Katie has always been passionate about the sciences, and completed a degree in Astrophysics at Sheffield University. She decided that she wanted to inspire other young people, so moved to Bristol to complete a PGCE in Secondary Science. She particularly loves creating fun and absorbing materials to help students achieve their exam potential.

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