Difference Between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves (With Table)

There are different types of waves we have come across during studying physics, and the most common that everybody at least heard of are sound waves and physical waves. They are basic waves, but except there are types of waves around us that not many are aware of. Such as Transverse and Longitudinal Waves are different types of waves that travel through different matter and have different properties.

Transverse vs Longitudinal Waves

The difference between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves is in the way they are created and in the direction they travel. Troughs and crests lead to the formation of transverse waves that travel in a perpendicular direction, while rarefaction and compression lead to the formation of the longitudinal waves that travel in a parallel (opposite or same) direction. Transverse waves can only travel through solid materials or objects, whereas longitudinal waves can travel through any soli, liquid, or gaseous materials. Last but not least, they also differ in terms of polarized and dimensional objects, etc. 

A transverse wave is one of the types of wave. The property which makes it different from others is when the oscillations of disturbances occurring in the wave are in the perpendicular direction of the energy flowing in the wave, then it is known as a transverse wave. For example, Light is also a transverse wave.

The term longitudinal waves are derived from the abbreviation of an author L-waves. They belong to the category of mechanical waves. The application of longitudinal waves is to transfer energy from point A to point B within the same medium. Longitudinal waves are formed when the particles of disturbance do to and fro motion around their mean position for fulfilling the purpose of transfer of energy in the medium.

Comparison Table Between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves

Parameters of ComparisonTransverse WaveLongitudinal Wave
DirectionThey travel in a Perpendicular direction.They travel in Parallel (same or opposite) direction.
Travel ThroughSolids onlyThey travel through Solid, gas, liquid.
PolarizedThey are polarizedThey are not polarized.
Created throughTroughs and crestsRarefaction and compression
Present onTwo-dimensional objects They are present on one-dimensional objects

What is Transverse Wave?

A wave is defined as when a change in the environment, also known as disturbance, moves through time and space, and for that movement, energy is used. There is no transfer of matter in this process. A transverse wave is one of the types of wave. The property which makes it different from others is when the oscillations of disturbances occurring in the wave are in the perpendicular direction of the energy flowing in the wave, then it is known as a transverse wave. Every electromagnetic wave present around us is a transverse wave.

The most common example of a transverse wave is light. We can also create a live visual transverse wave by taking a stretched rope and moving its one end in the back and forth direction repeatedly. Every particle which is present in the wave shows harmonic motion.

It means every particle which is present in the wave is not moving; instead of that, they are just oscillating around their mean position and creating the whole wave. Around all this, the wave moves linearly. Sound waves are also transverse waves. The speed of transverse waves depends on two factors. The first of it is itself, i.e., Wave, and the second is from what it is going through, which refers to the medium.  

What is Longitudinal Wave?

The term longitudinal waves are derived from the abbreviation of an author L-waves. They belong to the category of mechanical waves. The application of longitudinal waves is to transfer energy from point A to point B within the same medium. Longitudinal waves are formed when the particles of disturbance do to and fro motion around their mean position for fulfilling the purpose of transfer of energy in the medium. They have also been identified as compressional waves. The reason behind this name is the presence of compression and rarefaction during the occurrence of the movement in any medium. The mediums which allow longitudinal waves to propagate are air, liquid, gases, and solids too.

They are commonly presented using density-distance graphs in graphical representations. The relation of pressure and density varies with the form of a longitudinal wave. The Compression form will consist of max pressure and density, whereas the form of rarefaction consists of minimum pressure and density in the wave. Examples of longitudinal waves are tsunami waves and vibration in spring. Sound waves are also an example of longitudinal waves, and the medium for them to propagate is air. That is, the sound cannot be traveled in a vacuum. 

Main Differences Between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves

  1. The main difference between both types of waves is that the waves which travel in either opposite direction or the same direction are called Longitudinal waves, while the wave which travels at an angle of 90 degrees’ direction is called Transverse Waves. Not only has this, but mostly the longitudinal wave travel in a parallel direction also whiled the direction in which the transverse wave move is perpendicular.
  2. When compared in terms of dimensions they are present on, longitudinal waves are only present on the objection that is one dimensional, while transverse waves are present on objects that are two dimensional.
  3. Longitudinal waves are not polarized, meaning they cannot specify the oscillation’s geometrical orientation, while Transverse waves are polarized in that they specify the oscillation’s geometrical orientation.
  4. Both of them also differ in terms of the matter they can travel through. Transverse waves cannot travel through liquids and gaseous matter, but only the solids, but Longitudinal waves cannot only travel through solids but also gas and liquid objects.
  5. The Transverse and Longitudinal waves are created through different processes. Troughs and crests are responsible for the creation of Transverse waves, whereas rarefactions and compression are responsible for the creation of longitudinal waves.

Conclusion

Hence, now you must have understood Transverse and Longitudinal Waves. They are different indeed, but still, they are also similar in more than one way. For example, both of them are mechanical waves, meaning both of them transfer energy through a medium and are oscillation matters (particles tend to oscillate about their mean positions), they transfer the energy without even actually transporting the matter, both of these waves satisfy a common formula that is v=fλ.

Studying waves is important in physics, and with time, the information and types of waves only increase. Therefore it is important to have at least the basic knowledge of different types of waves.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0021979789901896
  2. https://journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.154.124
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002197979290263L
  4. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-plasma-physics/article/threewave-interaction-between-transverse-and-longitudinal-waves/BEF7898EC1C822E2772801E29D335AAC
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096386951930129X
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2D vs 3D