Transverse wave

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Illustration of a simple (plane) transverse wave propagating through an elastic medium in the horizontal direction, with particles being displaced in the vertical direction. Only one layer of the material is shown Onde cisaillement impulsion 1d 30 petit.gif
Illustration of a simple (plane) transverse wave propagating through an elastic medium in the horizontal direction, with particles being displaced in the vertical direction. Only one layer of the material is shown
Illustration of the electric and magnetic fields along a ray in a simple (plane) light wave. For any plane perpendicular to the ray, each field has always the same value at all points of the plane. Electromagneticwave3D.gif
Illustration of the electric and magnetic fields along a ray in a simple (plane) light wave. For any plane perpendicular to the ray, each field has always the same value at all points of the plane.
Propagation of a transverse spherical wave in a 2d grid (empirical model) Ondes cisaillement 2d 20 petit.gif
Propagation of a transverse spherical wave in a 2d grid (empirical model)

In physics, a transverse wave is a moving wave whose oscillations are perpendicular (right angled) to the direction of the wave.

Physics Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

Wave oscillation that travels through space and matter

In physics, mathematics, and related fields, a wave is a disturbance of a field in which a physical attribute oscillates repeatedly at each point or propagates from each point to neighboring points, or seems to move through space.


A simple example is given by the waves that can be created on a horizontal length of string by anchoring one end and moving the other end up and down.

Another example is the waves that are created on the membrane of a drum. The waves propagate in directions that are parallel to the membrane plane, but the membrane itself gets displaced up and down, perpendicular to that plane.

Drum type of musical instrument of the percussion family

The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, it is a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a percussion mallet, to produce sound. There is usually a resonance head on the underside of the drum, typically tuned to a slightly lower pitch than the top drumhead. Other techniques have been used to cause drums to make sound, such as the thumb roll. Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.

Light is another example of a transverse wave, where the oscillations are the electric and magnetic fields, which point at right angles to the ideal light rays that describe the direction of propagation.

Light electromagnetic radiation in or near visible spectrum

Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7 m, between the infrared and the ultraviolet. This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz).

Electric field spatial distribution of vectors representing the force applied to a charged test particle

An electric field surrounds an electric charge, and exerts force on other charges in the field, attracting or repelling them. Electric field is sometimes abbreviated as E-field. The electric field is defined mathematically as a vector field that associates to each point in space the force per unit of charge exerted on an infinitesimal positive test charge at rest at that point. The SI unit for electric field strength is volt per meter (V/m). Newtons per coulomb (N/C) is also used as a unit of electric field strength. Electric fields are created by electric charges, or by time-varying magnetic fields. Electric fields are important in many areas of physics, and are exploited practically in electrical technology. On an atomic scale, the electric field is responsible for the attractive force between the atomic nucleus and electrons that holds atoms together, and the forces between atoms that cause chemical bonding. Electric fields and magnetic fields are both manifestations of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

Magnetic field spatial distribution of vectors allowing the calculation of the magnetic force on a test particle

A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence of electric charges in relative motion and magnetized materials. The effects of magnetic fields are commonly seen in permanent magnets, which pull on magnetic materials and attract or repel other magnets. Magnetic fields surround and are created by magnetized material and by moving electric charges such as those used in electromagnets. They exert forces on nearby moving electrical charges and torques on nearby magnets. In addition, a magnetic field that varies with location exerts a force on magnetic materials. Both the strength and direction of a magnetic field vary with location. As such, it is described mathematically as a vector field.

Transverse waves commonly occur in elastic solids; the oscillations in this case are the displacement of the solid particles away from their relaxed position, in directions perpendicular to the propagation of the wave. Since those displacements correspond to a local shear deformation of the material, a transverse wave of this nature is called a shear wave. In seismology, shear waves are also called secondary waves or S-waves.

In physics, elasticity is the ability of a body to resist a distorting influence and to return to its original size and shape when that influence or force is removed. Solid objects will deform when adequate forces are applied to them. If the material is elastic, the object will return to its initial shape and size when these forces are removed. Hooke's law states that the force should be proportional to the extension. The physical reasons for elastic behavior can be quite different for different materials. In metals, the atomic lattice changes size and shape when forces are applied. When forces are removed, the lattice goes back to the original lower energy state. For rubbers and other polymers, elasticity is caused by the stretching of polymer chains when forces are applied.

Seismology The scientific study of earthquakes and propagation of elastic waves through a planet

Seismology is the scientific study of earthquakes and the propagation of elastic waves through the Earth or through other planet-like bodies. The field also includes studies of earthquake environmental effects such as tsunamis as well as diverse seismic sources such as volcanic, tectonic, oceanic, atmospheric, and artificial processes such as explosions. A related field that uses geology to infer information regarding past earthquakes is paleoseismology. A recording of earth motion as a function of time is called a seismogram. A seismologist is a scientist who does research in seismology.

Transverse waves are contrasted with longitudinal waves, where the oscillations occur in the direction of the wave. The standard example of a longitudinal wave is a sound wave or "pressure wave" in gases, liquids, or solids, whose oscillations cause compression and expansion of the material through which the wave is propagating. Pressure waves are called "primary waves", or "P-waves" in geophysics.

Mathematical formulation

Mathematically, the simplest kind of transverse wave is a plane linearly polarized sinusoidal one. "Plane" here means that the direction of propagation is unchanging and the same over the whole medium; "linearly polarized" means that the direction of displacement too is unchanging and the same over the whole medium; and the magnitude of the displacement is a sinusoidal function only of time and of position along the direction of propagation.

Polarization (waves) property of waves that can oscillate with more than one orientation

Polarization is a property applying to transverse waves that specifies the geometrical orientation of the oscillations. In a transverse wave, the direction of the oscillation is perpendicular to the direction of motion of the wave. A simple example of a polarized transverse wave is vibrations traveling along a taut string (see image); for example, in a musical instrument like a guitar string. Depending on how the string is plucked, the vibrations can be in a vertical direction, horizontal direction, or at any angle perpendicular to the string. In contrast, in longitudinal waves, such as sound waves in a liquid or gas, the displacement of the particles in the oscillation is always in the direction of propagation, so these waves do not exhibit polarization. Transverse waves that exhibit polarization include electromagnetic waves such as light and radio waves, gravitational waves, and transverse sound waves in solids.

The motion of such a wave can be expressed mathematically as follows. Let d be the direction of propagation (a vector with unit length), and o any reference point in the medium. Let u be the direction of the oscillations (another unit-length vector perpendicular to d). The displacement of a particle at any point p of the medium and any time t (seconds) will be

S(p,t) = Au sin((t - (p - o)•d/v)/T + φ)

where A is the wave's amplitude or strength, T is its period, v is the speed of propagation, and φ is its phase at o. All these parameters are real numbers. The symbol "•" denotes the inner product of two vectors.

By this equation, the wave travels in the direction d and the oscillations occur back and forth along the direction u. The wave is said to be linearly polarized in the direction u.

An observer that looks at a fixed point p will see the particle there move in a simple harmonic (sinusoidal) motion with period T seconds, with maximum particle displacement A in each sense; that is, with a frequency of f = 1/T full oscillation cycles every second. A snapshot of all particles at a fixed time t will show the same displacement for all particles on each plane perpendicular to d, with the displacements in successive planes forming a sinusoidal pattern, with each full cycle extending along d by the wavelengthλ = vT = v/f. The whole pattern moves in the direction d with speed V.

The same equation describes a plane linearly polarized sinusoidal light wave, except that the "displacement" S(p, t) is the electric field at point p and time t. (The magnetic field will be described by the same equation, but with a "displacement" direction that is perpendicular to both d and u, and a different amplitude.)

Superposition principle

In a homogeneous elastic medium, complex oscillations (vibrations in a material or light flows) can be described as the superposition of many simple sinusoidal waves, either transverse (linearly polarized) or longitudinal.

The vibrations of a violin string, for example, can be analyzed as the sum of many transverse waves of different frequencies, that displace the string either up or down or left to right. The ripples in a pond can be analyzed as a combination of transverse and longitudinal waves (gravity waves) that propagate together.

Circular polarization

If the medium is linear and allows multiple independent displacement directions for the same travel direction d, we can choose two mutually perpendicular directions of polarization, and express any wave linearly polarized in any other direction as a linear combination (mixing) of those two waves.

By combining two waves with same frequency, velocity, and direction of travel, but with different phases and independent displacement directions, one obtains a circularly or elliptically polarized wave. In such a wave the particles describe circular or ellitcal trajectories, instead of moving back and forth.

See also

Related Research Articles

Circular polarization

In electrodynamics, circular polarization of an electromagnetic wave is a polarization state in which, at each point, the electric field of the wave has a constant magnitude but its direction rotates with time at a steady rate in a plane perpendicular to the direction of the wave.

In electrodynamics, linear polarization or plane polarization of electromagnetic radiation is a confinement of the electric field vector or magnetic field vector to a given plane along the direction of propagation. See polarization and plane of polarization for more information.

In physics, a plane wave is a special case of wave or field: a physical quantity whose value, at any moment, is constant over any plane that is perpendicular to a fixed direction in space.

Seismic wave Waves of energy that travel through the Earths layers, and are a result of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, magma movement, large landslides and large man-made explosions

Seismic waves are waves of energy that travel through the Earth's layers, and are a result of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, magma movement, large landslides and large man-made explosions that give out low-frequency acoustic energy. Many other natural and anthropogenic sources create low-amplitude waves commonly referred to as ambient vibrations. Seismic waves are studied by geophysicists called seismologists. Seismic wave fields are recorded by a seismometer, hydrophone, or accelerometer.

Longitudinal wave waves in which the displacement of the medium is in the same direction as, or the opposite direction to, the direction of propagation of the wave

Longitudinal waves are waves in which the displacement of the medium is in the same direction as, or the opposite direction to, the direction of propagation of the wave. Mechanical longitudinal waves are also called compressional or compression waves, because they produce compression and rarefaction when traveling through a medium, and pressure waves, because they produce increases and decreases in pressure.

Mechanical wave

A mechanical wave is a wave that is an oscillation of matter, and therefore transfers energy through a medium. While waves can move over long distances, the movement of the medium of transmission—the material—is limited. Therefore, the oscillating material does not move far from its initial equilibrium position. Mechanical waves transport energy. This energy propagates in the same direction as the wave. Any kind of wave has a certain energy. Mechanical waves can be produced only in media which possess elasticity and inertia.

Birefringence Optical phenomenon

Birefringence is the optical property of a material having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light. These optically anisotropic materials are said to be birefringent. The birefringence is often quantified as the maximum difference between refractive indices exhibited by the material. Crystals with non-cubic crystal structures are often birefringent, as are plastics under mechanical stress.

Sine wave Mathematical curve that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation; continuous wave

A sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth periodic oscillation. A sine wave is a continuous wave. It is named after the function sine, of which it is the graph. It occurs often in pure and applied mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other fields. Its most basic form as a function of time (t) is:

Normal mode pattern of motion in which all parts of the system move sinusoidally with the same frequency and with a fixed phase relation

A normal mode of an oscillating system is a pattern of motion in which all parts of the system move sinusoidally with the same frequency and with a fixed phase relation. The free motion described by the normal modes takes place at the fixed frequencies. These fixed frequencies of the normal modes of a system are known as its natural frequencies or resonant frequencies. A physical object, such as a building, bridge, or molecule, has a set of normal modes and their natural frequencies that depend on its structure, materials and boundary conditions. When relating to music, normal modes of vibrating instruments are called "harmonics" or "overtones".

In physics, a wave vector is a vector which helps describe a wave. Like any vector, it has a magnitude and direction, both of which are important: Its magnitude is either the wavenumber or angular wavenumber of the wave, and its direction is ordinarily the direction of wave propagation.

S-wave Wikimedia disambiguation page

In seismology, S-waves, secondary waves, or shear waves are a type of elastic wave, and are one of the two main types of elastic body waves, so named because they move through the body of an object, unlike surface waves.

Love wave

In elastodynamics, Love waves, named after Augustus Edward Hough Love, are horizontally polarized surface waves. The Love wave is a result of the interference of many shear waves (S–waves) guided by an elastic layer, which is welded to an elastic half space on one side while bordering a vacuum on the other side. In seismology, Love waves are surface seismic waves that cause horizontal shifting of the Earth during an earthquake. Augustus Edward Hough Love predicted the existence of Love waves mathematically in 1911. They form a distinct class, different from other types of seismic waves, such as P-waves and S-waves, or Rayleigh waves. Love waves travel with a lower velocity than P- or S- waves, but faster than Rayleigh waves. These waves are observed only when there is a low velocity layer overlying a high velocity layer/ sub–layers.

Lamb waves

Lamb waves propagate in solid plates. They are elastic waves whose particle motion lies in the plane that contains the direction of wave propagation and the plane normal. In 1917, the English mathematician Horace Lamb published his classic analysis and description of acoustic waves of this type. Their properties turned out to be quite complex. An infinite medium supports just two wave modes traveling at unique velocities; but plates support two infinite sets of Lamb wave modes, whose velocities depend on the relationship between wavelength and plate thickness.

Sound mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing; pressure wave, generated by vibrating structure

In physics, sound is a vibration that typically propagates as an audible wave of pressure, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid.

Plane of polarization

The term plane of polarization refers to the direction of polarization of linearly-polarized light or other electromagnetic radiation. Unfortunately the term is used with two contradictory meanings. As originally defined by Étienne-Louis Malus in 1811, the plane of polarization coincided with the plane containing the direction of propagation and the magnetic vector. In modern literature, the term plane of polarization, if it is used at all, is likely to mean the plane containing the direction of propagation and the electric vector, because the electric field has the greater propensity to interact with matter.

In physics, sinusoidalplane wave is a special case of plane wave: a field whose value varies as a sinusoidal function of time and of the distance from some fixed plane.

Traveling plane wave

In mathematics and physics, a traveling plane wave is a special case of plane wave, namely a field whose evolution in time can be described as simple translation of its values at a constant wave speed , along a fixed direction of propagation .