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100% perfect interior 
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#1
Nov1013, 12:25 PM

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P: 1,496

A light source(powered with a battery) is put inside a box of interior covered with 100% reflective material.(atleast very much reflective).So,photons emitted from the light will not be absorbed.What will happen to the box?Will it's mass increase or will it just blow?What may be the possible situations?



#2
Nov1013, 12:56 PM

P: 853

Since light is energy and energy mass is related , the box will be a tiny bit heavier with light in it, Will it blow up , I don't know , probably not , maybe on very high energy side of the EM spectrum with short wavelengths and depending on what the box is made of , cheese will definitely melt :D



#3
Nov1013, 01:07 PM

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P: 11,889

Nothing will change, as the light is created from the potential energy of the battery. After discharging completely, the battery would be a tiny bit lighter, and the combined mass of the photons in the box would equal the missing mass of the battery. (Note that while individual photons don't have mass, a collection of them do when part of a system)



#4
Nov1013, 01:35 PM

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P: 1,496

100% perfect interior
Then what will happen to the light?Will it remain there for ever?Will a tsunami of light rush out when I open the box after 100 years?(assuming the battery lasts for 100 years)



#5
Nov1013, 02:00 PM

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#6
Nov1013, 02:01 PM

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#8
Nov1013, 03:00 PM

P: 699




#9
Nov1013, 03:03 PM

P: 853

ups I didn't notice that you have included the power source (battery in this case) together with the whole box system in that case well yep the other members already said it.
but if we assume 100% reflective inner surface then isn't there a maximum energy density of light that a given size box could withstand ? 


#10
Nov1013, 03:06 PM

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#11
Nov1013, 03:22 PM

P: 440

The pressure of a photon gas is given by [itex] P = \frac{1}{3} u [/itex] where [itex] u [/itex] is the energy density in the box. So, assuming the box can only withstand a finite amount of pressure, then eventually it will blow apart.
If you know the volume of the box and the power of your light source, you can easily calculate how long it would take. 


#12
Nov1013, 03:51 PM

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P: 17,330

Think about it a bit. How can the flashlight become warmer without net absorption of energy from the photon gas? 


#13
Nov1013, 05:13 PM

P: 699

The flashlight will become warmer by absorbing energy from the photon gas but its thermal energy is still part of the system and still contribute to its mass. Any photons of thermal radiation it emits will still be trapped and therefore still be part of the system and contribute to the mass of the box.
If the walls are less then 100% reflective then they will absorb photons and heat up. Thermal conduction will then transport the energy to the exterior surface of the box where it will be radiated away and will no longer contribute to the mass of the box. If you stipulate that the exterior surface of the box has zero emissivity and is not in contact with anything else then you are correct, total interior reflectivity would also be unnecessary for the box to maintain its massenergy content 


#14
Nov1013, 08:40 PM

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P: 17,330

However, the OP wants to keep the energy as light for time scales on the order of a century. Given that, then it is definitely necessary that everything inside be perfectly reflective. 


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