Difference Between Longitudinal and Transverse Wave (With Table)

In our surroundings, there are several materials and matters that are responsible for several processes and cycles. These materials are not easily visible by the human eyes, but with some advanced machinery, they can be detected. To study them and to understand them, we must know the basic physics and their foundation. The physics behind such processes and happenings is deep enough and quite layered.

Various concepts and theories are engaged in them, and to understand them, one must know the facts and the causes. There are several terms that are engaged in physics that include medium, waves, oscillations, disturbance in the oscillation etc. The disturbance caused in a medium during a certain period of time accompanied by energy transfer is known as a wave. There are several types of waves, and two of those types are 1. Longitudinal waves and 2. Transverse waves.

Longitudinal vs Transverse Wave

The difference between longitudinal waves and transverse waves is the number of dimensions in which the waves act. Longitudinal waves act in only one dimension. On the other hand, transverse waves act in two dimensions. There are other distinguishing characters between these two concepts as well.

The wave in which the propagation of the wave and the particles of the medium move in a parallel direction is known as longitudinal waves. The sound waves are one of the prominent examples of longitudinal waves. The direction of the wave and the direction of the medium in longitudinal waves is the same, and it acts only in one dimension. The wave can neither be polarized nor aligned. Production of the wave can be done in any sort of medium.

The wave in which the movement of the particles is perfectly perpendicular to the direction of the wave propagation is known as a transverse wave. The formation of ripple on the water surface is one of the prominent examples of a transverse wave. The movement of particles is perpendicular to the direction of the waves, and it acts in two dimensions. The wave can either be polarized or aligned. Production of the wave can be done in only solid and liquid’s surface medium.

Comparison Table Between Longitudinal and Transverse Wave

Parameters of ComparisonLongitudinal WaveTransverse Wave
Meaning/ DefinitionThe wave in which the propagation of the wave and the particles of the medium move in a parallel direction is known as longitudinal waves.The wave in which the movement of the particles is perfectly perpendicular to the direction of the wave propagation is known as a transverse wave.
DimensionOneTwo
AlignmentIt can’t be alignedIt can be aligned
ProductionLongitudinal waves can be produced in any mediumTransverse waves can be produced in solid and liquid medium’s surface
Made ofCompressions, rarefactionsCrests, troughs

What is Longitudinal Wave?

The disturbance caused in a medium during a certain period of time accompanied by energy transfer is known as a wave. Here the wave and the medium make their movements in the same direction. They are parallel to each other. There are several days to day examples where we observe longitudinal waves.

The sound waves are one of the prominent examples of longitudinal waves. The direction of the wave and the direction of the medium in longitudinal waves is the same, and it acts only in one dimension. The wave can neither be polarized nor aligned. Production of the wave can be done in any sort of medium.

There also exist mechanical longitudinal waves or compression waves, and they are responsible for the production of rarefactions and compression caused while moving through the medium. There are several real-life examples of these waves as well that we observe in our daily lives. However, sound waves are one of the most prominent examples of longitudinal waves.

There is a specific formula to describe longitudinal harmonic waves in the sound waves. That formula is used to describe the frequency and wavelength of the wave. There are several equations as well that is used to solve the problems regarding the longitudinal waves. The seismic waves produced during an earthquake are also an example of longitudinal waves.

What is Transverse Wave?

The wave in which the movement of the particles is perfectly perpendicular to the direction of the wave propagation is known as a transverse wave. Here the wave and the medium do not make their movements in the same direction. They are perpendicular to each other. There are several days to day examples where we observe transverse waves.

The formation of ripple on the water surface is one of the prominent examples of a transverse wave. The movement of particles is perpendicular to the direction of the waves, and it acts in two dimensions. The wave can either be polarized or aligned. Production of the wave can be done in only solid and liquid’s surface medium.

The transverse waves are opposite to the longitudinal waves. The solid particles are displaced from their initial position, and they get displaced by moving in the direction that is perpendicular to the wave propagation. The movement of waves occurs in a horizontal manner. The particles, however, move in an up and down direction.

The oscillations that occur in light are in electric fields but also in magnetic fields, which is also an example of transverse waves. Transfer waves mostly occur in elastic materials that are is in a solid state. They occur in them mostly because of the shear stress that is generated in them. Because of this nature, the transverse wave is also called a shear wave.

Main Differences Between Longitudinal and Transverse Wave

  1. The wave in which the propagation of the wave and the particles of the medium move in a parallel direction is known as longitudinal waves. On the other hand, the wave in which the movement of the particles is perfectly perpendicular to the direction of the wave propagation is known as a transverse wave.
  2. The longitudinal waves can not be aligned. On the other hand, the transverse waves can be aligned.
  3. The longitudinal waves can not be polarized. On the other hand, the transverse waves can be polarized.
  4. The longitudinal waves can be produced in any medium. On the other hand, the transverse waves can not be produced in all the mediums.
  5. The longitudinal waves comprise rarefactions and compression. On the other hand, the transverse waves comprise troughs and crests.

Conclusion

The study of these waves is done to understand several other concepts that are relevant to the topic, and the theories are used to determine various other important things.

However, people must know at least a thing or few about these concepts in order to understand the things that take place around the or in the world in general. It is important to have basic knowledge about these things as well, as it might help in any situations that one might have not prepared for.

References

  1. https://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.1910144
  2. https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.91.164301
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2D vs 3D