Reciprocal length

Reciprocal length or inverse length is a measurement used in several branches of science and mathematics. As the reciprocal of length, common units used for this measurement include the reciprocal metre or inverse metre (m1), the reciprocal centimetre or inverse centimetre (cm1), and, in optics, the dioptre.

Quantities measured in reciprocal length include:

Measure of energy

Reciprocal length is used as a measure of energy. The frequency of a photon yields a certain photon energy, according to the Planck-Einstein relation. Therefore, as reciprocal length is a measure of frequency, it can also be used as a measure of energy. For example, the reciprocal centimetre, cm−1, is an energy unit equaling the energy of a photon with 1 cm wavelength. That energy amounts to approximately 1.24×10−4 eV or 1.986×10−23 J.

The higher the number of inverse length units, the lower the energy. For example, in terms of energy, one reciprocal metre equals 10−2 (one hundredth) as much as a reciprocal centimetre. Five reciprocal metres are one-fifth as much energy as one reciprocal metre.

Further reading

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