Examples of Electromagnetic Waves

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We all are surrounded by electromagnetic waves. Every day we are using them knowingly or unknowingly to make our life easier. In this article, we extensively discuss some examples of electromagnetic waves. But, before that, we should understand what electromagnetic waves are.

Electromagnetic waves or EM waves are particular groups of transverse waves which are generated due to the simultaneous vibration of the electric and magnetic field. Magnetic field and electric field vibrate in planes perpendicular to the direction of the propagation of the wave. In the diagram below, the propagation of the wave is along the z-direction. Electric field (shown in blue) vibrates in the XZ plane and magnetic field (shown in red) vibrates in the YZ plane.


Unlike sound wave and mechanical waves, electromagnetic waves do not require a medium to travel from one place to another. Moreover, all the electromagnetic waves travel at a constant speed of 299,792,458 m/s. Please note that here we are referring to the speed at vacuum only. The properties described above make it convenient to use electromagnetic waves as the most suitable way of modern telecommunication.

Ever wonder, why don’t we hear the sound from the sun? Well, one obvious answer is the distance the sun belongs. However, this answer is partially correct. We can see the light from the sun but can not hear sound from it. This is because sound wave can not propagate through the vacuum. However, being an electromagnetic wave light can easily travel from the sun to us.

Below, we mention some examples of electromagnetic waves to make the topic easier for you. Please rate this article with five stars to encourage us.


Examples of Electromagnetic Waves

Radio waves are electromagnetic waves. They are the waves having the lowest frequency and carry the least amount of energy. Consequently, they also have the highest wavelength among all EM waves. Typical wavelength of radio waves ranges between few m to few Kms. Radio stations like TV broadcasting stations, FM broadcasting stations, your cell phone, walkie-talkie are examples of artificial radio sources. Some celestial objects like stars also emit radio waves.

microwave oven is an example of electromagnetic wave generator
Microwave oven is an example of electromagnetic wave generator.

Next, comes the microwaves in the EM spectrum. The corresponding wavelength ranges from a few mm to a few meters. They can interact with molecules and atoms. One such example is the working of a microwave oven. Here the interaction between the microwave radiation with the water molecules produces heat energy.

tv remote control can produce infrared radiation
TV remote control can produce infrared radiation

Infrared electromagnetic waves have relatively higher energy than radio-waves or microwaves. They can interact with single molecules. Infrared waves are commonly associated with an increase in temperature. Your TV remote control is an example of an infrared transmitter. Some surveillance camera can detect infrared signals, thus have the ability to see in darkness.

We are most familiar with the visible spectrum of electromagnetic waves. Our eyes can perceive EM waves ranging between 400 nm and 700 nm and is commonly known as light. The sun is an abundant source of light. Florescent bulb, LED, Tungsten bulb, Sodium Vapor lamp are all examples of the source of this type of electromagnetic waves.

ultraviolet light
Ultraviolet lamp.

Ultraviolet designates the electromagnetic waves with wavelength ranging from 400 nm to 10 nm. This wavelength is shorter than visible light and longer than X-rays. They can destroy certain double bonding in molecules and damage DNA. Surprisingly, ultraviolet radiation is also present in sunlight.

X-ray of human chest
X-ray of human chest. Can you see the pacemaker?

X-rays make up of electromagnetic waves ranging from 0.01 to 10 nm. Wavelengths are typically shorter than those of ultraviolet waves and longer than gamma rays. X-rays can penetrate soft tissues and destroy organic cells. X-rays have a wide-ranging application in medical science, crystallography, astrophysics, and several other branches of modern sciences.

gamma ray an example of electromagnetic waves
Gamma ray is produced during nuclear fusion reaction

Gamma rays are electromagnetic waves having the shortest wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum. Consequently, they carry the highest energy. Typical energy of gamma rays ranges from few KeV to approximately 8 MeV.