Types of Waves

There are many different types of waves such as Longitudinal, Transverse, Sound, Light and many others. The two most common waves are Longitudinal and Transverse waves. Although they are common they are not very alike. Longitudinal Waves and Transverse waves are very different waves when it come to how they behave. They behave in very different ways which are listed below.

Transverse Waves

A transverse wave is a wave that moves in a perpendicular direction towards where the energy is coming from. An example of a transverse wave is holding a piece of paper and moving your hands up and down. Transverse waves cannot penetrate through gases and liquid because the perpendicular movement can't act in that way. Light waves can regularly be transverse waves such as a little ripple in a cup of water. The difference between Transverse and Longitudinal waves is that Longitudinal waves go in a parallel direction and Transverse waves go in a perpendicular direction.

The Transverse waves go in a perpendicular direction as the diagram shows.

Longitudinal Waves

Longitudinal Waves are waves that travel in a parallel direction towards or opposite of the energy its transferring from. Longitudinal Waves also travel in the same direction of the energy's direction. An example of a Longitudinal Wave is a sound wave as sound travels in the same direction. Unlike the Transverse wave, It's also a mechanical wave which means it can travel through gases, liquids and solids. The wavelength is determined from the crests the wave has which is done by completing a certain formula. The formula is described below:


Longitudinal Waves can be described like a slinky.

Electro-Magnetic Vs Mechanical

Waves are often categorised into two different groups known as Electro-Magnetic waves and Mechanical Waves. The two groups are very unlike as they have different components and behave in nearly opposite ways.


Electro-Magnetic waves are often caused by electric and magnetic fields changing in an area. Some waves that are Electro-Magnetic are radio and light waves as they are produced when magnetic/electric fields change. Electro-Magnetic waves can travel through nearly anything from liquids, gases, solids and even vacuum. This is due to the magnetic/electric fields changing and thats why Electro Magnetic-Waves can go through nearly everything. Electro-Magnetic waves also tend to travel at high speeds compared to Mechanical waves.


Mechanical Waves is caused by substance's (liquids, gases and solids) that produce energy to create a wave. Unlike the Electro-Magnetic waves, Mechanical waves need a substance to create energy for the wave. Mechanical waves are caused by the particles of the substance vibrating therefore sometimes creating waves such as sound and ocean waves. Mechanical waves are often known as elastic waves as well because the substances elastic properties depends whether the wave can travel through substances such as liquids, gases and solids. Mechanical waves also tend to travel at a slower frequency then Electro-Magnetic waves.

An example of a mechanical wave as the particles of the liquid vibrates therefore producing a mechanical wave.