Q:

How do waves transfer energy without transferring matter?

A:

Quick Answer

Waves are vibrations that transfer energy through a medium without causing the individual particles of a medium to move significantly from their equilibrium or position of rest. Once a wave has passed, the particles that comprise a medium tend to return to their respective position.

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Full Answer

The particles and substance of a medium move in a direction that is perpendicular to the movement of a wave. Waves exchange kinetic energy for potential energy, meaning that particles begin to slow down the further they move from their original position. Once the kinetic energy of a wave has passed through a medium, its constituents are restored to a resting state that has been little altered by the passage of a wave.

Waves are known as an energy transport phenomenon, a disturbance that travels through a medium from one particle to the next. Waves may be compromised of sound, water and even electromagnetic energy. The energy of a wave can be measured in terms of frequency and wavelength, regardless of the type of wave or through which medium it can travel. Waves that are made of electromagnetic energy do not require a medium and are able to transfer energy through the vacuum of space.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What can electromagnetic waves transfer energy without?

    A:

    Electromagnetic waves can travel and transport energy without a medium through which it may travel. This contrasts with mechanical waves, such as sound waves, which cannot travel through a vacuum. If electromagnetic radiation could not travel through a vacuum, the sun’s rays would not light the Earth.

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  • Q:

    How are electromagnetic waves different from mechanical waves?

    A:

    Electromagnetic and mechanical waves differ in that electromagnetic waves are always longitudinal and do not require a known medium, while mechanical waves are either longitudinal or compression waves and require a medium. All known electromagnetic waves are also known as forms of light. An example of a longitudinal mechanical wave is a wave in water, while sound is an example of a compression wave.

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  • Q:

    What are transverse waves?

    A:

    A transverse wave is one where the displacement of the medium in which the wave is travelling is perpendicular to its propagation. A pond ripple is an example of a transverse wave.

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  • Q:

    How do waves travel?

    A:

    Waves travel by transferring energy from particle to particle through a medium such as air or water. In some cases, this energy transfer creates a motion perpendicular to the direction of travel, creating transverse waves. Other waves travel by compressing the medium and creating motion parallel to the direction of movement, such as the longitudinal waves that transmit sound through the air.

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