CIE AS Physics (9702) exams from 2022

Revision Notes

7.1.5 Transverse & Longitudinal Waves

Properties of Transverse & Longitudinal Waves

  • In mechanical waves, particles oscillate about fixed points
  • The direction of oscillations with regards to the direction of wave travel determine what type of wave it is

 

Transverse waves

  • A transverse wave is one where the particles oscillate perpendicular to the direction of the wave travel (and energy transfer)
  • Transverse waves show areas of crests (peaks) and troughs

Transverse wave diagram, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Diagram of a transverse wave

 

  • Examples of transverse waves are:
    • Electromagnetic waves e.g. radio, visible light, UV
    • Vibrations on a guitar string
  • These can be shown on a rope
  • Transverse waves can be polarised

 

Longitudinal waves

  • A longitudinal wave is one where the particles oscillate parallel to the direction of the wave travel (and energy transfer)
  • Longitudinal waves show areas of compressions and rarefactions

Longitudinal wave diagram, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Diagram of a longitudinal wave

 

  • Examples of longitudinal waves are:
    • Sound waves
    • Ultrasound waves
  • These can be shown on a slinky spring
  • Longitudinal waves cannot be polarised
  • You will have learned how to analyse the properties of a wave, such as amplitude and wavelength, in “General Wave Properties”
  • The diagram below shows the equivalent of a wavelength on a longitudinal wave

Wavelength on transverse and longitudinal waves, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Wavelength shown on a longitudinal wave

 

Exam Tip

The definition of transverse and longitudinal waves are often asked as exam questions, make sure to remember these definitions by heart!

Graphical Representations of Transverse & Longitudinal Waves

Worked example

Worked example - transverse and longitudinal wave (1), downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Worked example - transverse and longitudinal wave (2), downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Exam Tip

Both transverse and longitudinal waves can look like transverse waves when plotted on a graph – make sure you read the question and look for whether the wave travels parallel (longitudinal) or perpendicular (transverse) to the direction of travel to confirm which type of wave it is.

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