Sunteți pe pagina 1din 14

Waves and their applications


Vibration refers to mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point or in other words a rhythmic
movement of an object to either side across a fixed point

Eg: The oscillations of a pendulum

Note: motion is a change in position of an object with respect to time therefore vibration can also be
considered as a motion. But unlike other motions such as linear motion a vibration is a periodic
motion that happens over and over.


A wave may be defined as a travelling condition periodic disturbance or motion across a medium or a
space that carries energy from one point to another. Energy travels from one place to another by
means of a wave.

All waves require a source to be formed and they need or don’t need a medium to propagate.

Waves that need a medium to propagate energy

When a wave is transmitted through a medium the particles start to move periodically. There are two
patterns of particle movement when a wave travel through a medium

Pattern No 1

Particles of the medium move forward and backwards

Pattern no 2

Particles of the medium move up and down

However in each of the motion pattern particles come back to their original place but the pattern
or rhythermic movement propagate further.

Note: when a wave propagate there is no displacement in particles.

Energy is transmitted from one place to another by transferring the kinetic energy poses by one
particle to the other.

Therefore waves transfer energy not matter.

Eg: The water waves are carrying energy but are not moving. Waves can only exist as they have
energy to carry.

Waves that do not need a medium to propagate energy

Light, heat don’t need a Material medium for propagation. This type of waves can travel even through
vacuum as they don’t need a medium.

Eg: Light and heat energy emitted by the sun travel through space (no medium) before reaching
the ground.
Types of waves

Depending on the need of a medium to propagate waves can be divided into two major

1. Mechanical waves

Mechanical waves are waves which require a medium to propogate. A medium is a form of matter through
which the wave travels (such as water, air, glass, etc.).

Here a disturbance or vibration in matter carries energy from one place to another. A mechanical wave is
created when a source of energy causes a vibration to travel through a medium

Depending on the pattern of vibration of particles mechanical waves can be devide into two major categories.

a. Transverse waves
Particles of the medium vibrate perpendicular to the direction of the wave propogate

Eg:1 water waves

Water waves created by dropping a pebble into still water.

2Vibrating a slinky perpendicular to its axis

Characteristics of transverse waves

• Crest: The highest point of the wave above the rest position.
• Trough: The lowest point below the rest position.

b. Longitudinal waves
Particles of the medium vibrate along the direction of the
wave propagate

Eg: 1 sound waves

Eg 2 vibrating a slinky

Characteristics of longitudinal waves

• Compression: the area where the particles in the medium are spaced close together.
• Rarefaction: the area where the particles in the medium are spread apart.
Common features of a wave

Wave length

The distance between any two particles and the nearest one which are in the same phase or same stage of

Wave length shows a complete oscillation of a wave and a wave comprises by many number of these
complete oscillations.

In a transverse wave length can be easily defined as the distance between two crests (peaks) or the
distance between the two troughs.

In longitudinal waves, the wavelength can be defined as the distance between two compressions or

Units of wave length

The wave length is measured in meters (m)

Symbol ------------------ λ

The maximum displacement of any particle from its equilibrium point.


Measured in meters(m)

The period

The period is the time duration take for one cycle in a repeating event to be complete.

Measured in seconds (S) symbol - T


Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time or the number of vibrations or
the number of cycles made by particles of the medium in one second.

The time take to complete a cycle T s

The number of vibrations or the number of cycles made by particles 1

in the medium in one second T

But the number of vibrations or the number of cycles made by particles of the medium in one second is
the frequency.


Frequency = 1/T


Symbol of frequency is simple “ f “


Hertz ----------- Hz
Velocity of a wave

The displacement travelled in a unit period of time by a wave.

The distance of a complete cycle λ

Number of complete cycles happens in a unit period of time

(Frequency) f

The displacement of the wave in a unit period of time V

But the displacement in a unit period of time is known as the velocity of an object.


V = fλ

Units of velocity

• Wave length ------------------- m

• Frequency------------------------- s-1
• velocity of a wave-------------------------- V = wavelength* frequency
V = m * s-1

V = ms-1

2. Electromagnetic waves

• Material medium is not essential for propagation.

• Therefore electromagnetic waves travel through vacuum.

• Form due to electric and magnetic fields

• All electromagnetic waves are transverse waves


Mechanical waves Electromagnetic waves

Transverse waves Longitudinal waves Transverse waves

Characteristics of electromagnetic waves

• A medium is no nessecery for transmition
• Transverse waves
• In vacuum velocity is 3 *108 ms-1
• As they are made out of electrical and magnetic field they have the electrical and
magnetic properties.

Electromagnetic spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic waves
Radio and television waves

They are used for transmission of data, via modulation. Television, mobile phones, wireless
networking and radio all use radio waves. Wavelengths ranging from hundreds of meters to
about one millimeter. Radio waves can be made to carry information by varying a combination
of the amplitude, frequency and phase of the wave within a frequency band.

• Radio waves in kilo hertz (kHz) range are known as Amplitude modulation (AM)
• Radio waves in Megahertz (MHz) range are known as Frequency modulation (FM)
Television waves

• Very high frequency- VHF is the radio frequency range from 30 MHz to 300 MHz.
• Ultra high frequency (UHF)- with frequencies between 300 MHz and 3 GHz (3,000


Microwaves are electromagnetic waves with wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to
as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz (0.3 GHz) and
300 GHz

Microwaves are important in

• Communication
• Radar - to detect the range, speed, and other characteristics of remote objects.
• Navigation- Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), the American Global
Positioning System (GPS)
• Power- A microwave oven passes (non-ionizing) microwave through food, causing
dielectric heating by absorption of energy in the water, fats and sugar contained in the


Infrared (IR) light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 0.7 and 300
micrometers. All warm object loose heat energy by infra-red rays

Night vision- Infrared is used in night vision equipment when there is insufficient visible
light to see

Communication purposes

Meteorology- Weather satellites equipped with scanning radiometers produce thermal or

infrared images which can then enable to determine cloud heights and types, to calculate
land and surface water temperatures, and to locate ocean surface features.

Note: Infrared doesn’t imply heat radiation only. Light and electromagnetic waves of any
frequency will heat surfaces that absorb them.
Visible radiation

Electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 380 nm and 760 nm (790–400 terahertz) is
detected by the human eye and perceived as visible light.

And it is above infrared in frequency comes visible light. This is the range in which the sun and
stars emit most of their radiation. A rainbow shows the optical (visible) part of the
electromagnetic spectrum.

Ultra violet

Ultraviolet (UV). This is radiation whose wavelength is shorter than the violet end of the visible
spectrum, and longer than that of an X-ray.

UV rays are very energetic, UV can break chemical bonds, making molecules unusually reactive
or ionizing them

As a result long term exposing to UV radiation is the main cause of skin cancer, the radiation
damages the complex DNA molecules in the cells.

UV rays in sunlight help in the synthesis of vitamin D it is facilitated by fat tissue 7 D

hydrocholestrol in the adipose tissue below the skin.

Substances which absorb UV radiation is known as fluorescent substances. These substances

are often used in florescent lamps.

The Sun emits a large amount of UV radiation but most of it is absorbed by the atmosphere's
ozone layer before reaching the surface.

After UV come X-rays, which are also ionizing, but due to their higher energies they can also
interact with matter. X rays can be in two forms depending on the amount of energy they are

Hard X-rays

Soft X-rays.

As they can pass through most substances, X-rays can be used to 'see through' objects

Eg: diagnostic X-ray images in medicine (a process known as radiography),

Gamma rays
Discovered in 1900.

These are the most energetic photons, having no defined lower limit to their wavelength

Gamma rays are also used for the irradiation of food and seed for sterilization

In medicine they are used in radiation cancer therapy.


Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid,
or gas like medium

But Sound cannot travel through a vacuum.

The speed of sound depends on the medium the waves pass through,

The speed of sound is approximately in air -------------- 330 m/s

The speed of sound is approximately in fresh water--- 1,461 m/s

The speed of sound in steel, -------------------------------- 5,000 m/s

Humans, hearing is normally limited to frequencies between about 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (20

• Sound is transmitted through gases, plasma, and liquids as longitudinal

• Through solids, it can be transmitted as both longitudinal waves and
transverse waves.

Characteristics of sound
There are three major characteristics of sound

1. Pitch
2. Loudness
3. Quality of sound

The pitch of a sound depends on how fast the particles of a vibrate.

So the pitch of a sound depends on the number of waves produced in a given time in other words
the frequency.

Sound waves that have a high frequency are heard as sounds of high pitch.

Eg: violin produces high-pitched sounds.

Sound waves that have a low frequency are heard as sounds of low pitch.

Eg: A tuba produces low-pitched sounds.


Loudness depend on the amount of energy the wave possesses. The amount of energy of
a wave change with the amplitude of the wave

Therefore waves having high amplitudes having more loudness.

Amplitude high------- high amount of energy --------- loudness is high

Amplitude low--------- low amount of energy --------- loudness is low

Quality of sound

The pattern of the wave determines the quality of sound. Even the pitch and loudness is
same the quality of the sound may differ according to the pattern of the sound.
The pattern of the wave forms can be identified by a cathode ray oscilloscope

Musical instruments

Musical instruments can be divided into three groups

1. Instruments with vibrating air columns

2. Instruments with vibrating strings
3. Instruments with vibrating membranes

Instruments with vibrating air columns


Instruments with vibrating strings


Instruments with vibrating membranes