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Types of waves for Edexcel A-level Physics

Types of waves

This page covers the following topics:

1. Transverse waves
2. Longitudinal waves
3. Categorising waves

Transverse waves make the particles of the wave travel perpendicular to the direction of energy transfer. Examples of transverse waves include light waves and seismic S waves.

Transverse waves

Longitudinal waves have particle oscillations that are parallel to the direction of energy transfer in the wave. Examples of longitudinal waves include sound waves and seismic P waves.

Longitudinal waves

Different types of waves can be categorised depending on different characteristics: the presence of particles, the orientation of particle movement and the direction of energy transfer. The two main types of wave are electromagnetic and mechanical waves; mechanical waves can be broken down further into transverse, longitudinal and surface waves.

Categorising waves

1

Electromagnetic waves are an example of transverse waves. Name 3 types of electromagnetic waves.

any 3 from: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays

Electromagnetic waves are an example of transverse waves. Name 3 types of electromagnetic waves.

2

Which of the following lists of waves only contain longitudinal waves?
A) sound waves, seismic P waves, light waves
B) sound waves, seismic S waves, ultrasound waves
C) sound waves, seismic P waves, ultrasound waves

C) sound waves, seismic P waves and ultrasound waves

Which of the following lists of waves only contain longitudinal waves? 
A) sound waves, seismic P waves, light waves 
B) sound waves, seismic S waves, ultrasound waves 
C) sound waves, seismic P waves, ultrasound waves

3

Which of the following lists of waves only contains transverse waves?
A) light waves, sound waves, seismic S waves
B) light waves, radio waves, seismic S waves
C) light waves, seismic P waves, radio waves

B) light waves, radio waves and seismic S waves

Which of the following lists of waves only contains transverse waves? 
A) light waves, sound waves, seismic S waves 
B) light waves, radio waves, seismic S waves 
C) light waves, seismic P waves, radio waves

4

Name one difference between mechanical waves and electromagnetic waves.

1. Mechanical waves need matter to travel, but electromagnetic waves do not.
2. Electromagnetic waves can travel in a vacuum and mechanical waves cannot.
3. Electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light, but mechanical waves are much slower.

Name one difference between mechanical waves and electromagnetic waves.

5

Which part of the electromagnetic wavesโ€™ spectra has the highest frequency?

gamma

Which part of the electromagnetic wavesโ€™ spectra has the highest frequency?

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