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Fundamentals of Waves

A wave is defined as the propagating disturbance that requires a medium to propagate. It has different key characteristics such as wavelength, frequency, time period, velocity, and amplitude. These key characteristics are considered to be important concepts that describe the wave. Going further in this article, we shall understand these concepts and different types of waves.

Different types of waves

Waves can be in any form such as light waves, sound waves, microwaves, and radio waves. All these waveforms are governed by fundamental properties such as reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference. Also, the classification of the waves is based on the propagation of the particles. Depending on this factor waves can be classified into two, and they are transverse waves and longitudinal waves. So, what is the transverse wave, and what is a longitudinal wave?

Transverse waves

In transverse waves, the displacement of the particles is perpendicular to the direction of the propagation of the wave. A ripple on a pond is an example of a transverse wave. The occurrence of a transverse wave can happen on a string, on the surface of a liquid, and throughout the solid. The propagation of transverse waves is not possible in gas or in liquid. Other examples of transverse waves are seismic S-waves, vibrations in a guitar string, and electromagnetic waves such as radio waves, microwaves, and light waves.

Longitudinal waves

In a longitudinal wave, the displacement of the particles is parallel to the direction of propagation of the wave. Sound waves are an example of a longitudinal wave. Other examples of longitudinal waves are seismic P-waves and ultrasound waves. Compression and rarefactions are the two regions of the longitudinal wave. When the pressure is high as the particles are close to each other, then the region is known to have compression. When the pressure is low as the particles are further away from each other, then the region is known to have rarefaction.

Understanding sound waves

Sound is defined as the energy that is produced when the particles vibrate back and forth. This could be understood by banging a drum. By doing so, the thin membrane of the drum is made to vibrate at a very high speed such that the air particles surrounding the drum will vibrate and reach our eardrums. The sound waves can be compared with the light waves. Just like light waves, sound waves need a medium for their propagation. However, there is a major difference between these two waves and that is light waves can travel through the vacuum whereas sound waves cannot travel through the vacuum. For the propagation of sound waves, the presence of the medium is important. Also, the speed of soundvaries for different mediums. The speed of sound in air is 1220 km/hr while the speed of sound in water is 1480 m/s. From the given number we can say that the velocity at which the sound travels is different. The velocity at which the sound travels in solids is generally faster than in liquids. The speed is faster in liquids than in gases.

To learn more about the characteristics of sound waves and its properties or any other physics-related concepts, stay tuned with BYJU’S. Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more information.

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