Difference Between Sound Waves and Light Waves

We all have been tortured by the lessons of physics. But as physics is a culmination of natural things, we can not run far from it. It is in our daily lives and we can not avoid these. Such two phenomenons are sound waves and light waves. Both are inseparable from our lives, and this is why we should have certain ideas about the difference between the two.

Sound Waves vs Light Waves

The main difference between sound waves and light waves is that the light waves are categorised as electromagnetic waves, and due to this reason, these are visible to the mortal eyes, but sound waves are mechanical waves and can not be seen. Sound waves are incapable to travel through a vacuum, but light waves can as they do not require any kind of means in order to travel.

Sound Waves vs Light Waves

Longitudinal is the category of sound waves. These are mechanical waves and can travel through all three states that are solid, liquid and gas. As these are not electromagnetic waves, they are not visible to human eyes. Sound waves need a medium otherwise it is unable to travel, and this is the reason these waves can not travel through a vacuum.

Electromagnetic light waves are competent to travel without the help of any medium, and thus it travels through a vacuum which is without any matter. The light wavelength is not very long. These waves are transverse and visible to the eyes. These generate from charged particles of the medium.

Comparison Table Between Sound Waves and Light Waves

Parameters of ComparisonSound WavesLight Waves
Wave type Sound waves are classified as mechanical waves.Light waves are established as electromagnetic waves.
ProductionSound waves are produced by oscillating particles of the medium.Light waves are produced by oscillating charged particles of the medium.
MediumIt needs a medium to travel.It does not require any medium to travel.
Travel through vacuumSound waves are not qualified to travel through a vacuum.Light waves can travel through a vacuum.
WavelengthSounds waves have a very long wavelength.Light waves have a short wavelength in comparison.
NatureSound waves are longitudinal waves.Light waves are transverse in nature.

What are Sound Waves?

Sound waves exist as longitudinal waves. These waves travel through with the help of different mediums such as air and water. The travel speed of these waves is faster through water than through air. While talking about sound, we put our focus on how loud it is, that is, its amplitude, frequency, and intensity.

According to physics, sound is a vibration that propagates a wave, and this wave transmits through mediums like gas, liquid or solid. Sound waves travel faster in the solid states, such as through iron, steel, and stone. In the air, 335 metres per second is the travel speed of the sound waves.

Sound waves can be divided into two categories – compression and rarefaction. In compression molecules of sound waves are compressed together. And on the other hand, in rarefaction, the sound wave molecules are not compressed together, instead, they stay apart.

Sound waves are called mechanical waves. Sound waves travel through air and water effortlessly, but they are incapable of travelling through a vacuum. Sound waves need a medium to travel. And a vacuum is the condition where no air is available. It has no matter. So in a vacuum, the sound will not be eligible to travel. This is the reason for which the astronauts are not able to hear each other or talk to each other in space without the help of a radio.

What are Light Waves?

Light is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This radiation is given to us by stars like the sun in the case of the earth. Similarly to all types of electromagnetic radiation, the light is visible and propagates as waves. Due to its electromagnetic waves, these are subjected to be seen by human and animal eyes. Christian Huygens suggested that light is able to travel as waves. These are generated by oscillating electricity.

Light waves do not depend on any sort of medium to travel, and this is why they can travel easily through a vacuum. In a vacuum, the speed of light waves is approximately 186,282 miles per second. Light waves create shadows when it hits an object, but it can pass through any transparent object and does not formulate any shadows.

Light waves have three measurable properties, these are amplitude, frequency, and wavelength. Each wave of light possesses a wavelength. The wavelength of the light waves is short in size, and these waves have different sizes. Each size of each wavelength appears as different colours to the human eyes. Rainbows hold this entire spectrum of light waves.

Main Differences Between Sound Waves and Light Waves

  1. Sound waves are mechanical waves, whereas light waves are electromagnetic waves.
  2. The wavelength of sounds waves is very long, whereas comparatively, light waves have a short wavelength.
  3. Sound waves can not travel without a medium, but light waves, on the other hand, does not require any medium to keep on travelling through.
  4. As sound waves require a medium to travel, they are not capable of travelling through a vacuum. But light waves do not rely on any medium, so they can travel through a vacuum.
  5. Sound waves are known as longitudinal waves, whereas light waves are transverse.
  6. Sound waves are generated by oscillating particles of the medium, while light waves are produced by charged particles of the oscillating of the medium.
Difference Between Sound Waves and Light Waves


Sound waves and light waves are two basic phenomenons and part of our daily lives. They keep a balance on the earth, and we perceive these two waves with the help of our five senses. Both sound waves and light waves function as energy. Light waves also play a part to warm the earth. These two waves are very distinct from each other and have different functions and goals. The technical terms related to these two waves might be confusing, but their fundamental states are completely different and remarkable.


  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03035840
  2. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF03046242.pdf
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