Longitudinal Wave vs. Transverse Wave

Wave is defined as an oscillations accompanied by transfer of energy through a medium. Motion of a wave transfers energy from one point to another which displaces particles of the medium.  A wave can be either longitudinal wave or a transverse wave. Longitudinal waves is formed when oscillations of particles occurs parallel to the direction of the wave and transverse wave is formed when disturbance of particles creates oscillations that are perpendicular to the direction. Particles in longitudinal wave vibrates in parallel direction while in transverse waves particles vibrates perpendicularly.

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Longitudinal Wave vs. Transverse Wave

Contents: Difference between Longitudinal Wave and Transverse Wave

What is Longitudinal Wave?

Longitudinal waves are type of waves which is produced when vibration of particles of the medium conveying a wave parallel to the direction of the propagation of the wave. Waves in which displacement of the medium is in the same direction or the opposite direction to the direction of wave. Longitudinal waves produce compression and rarefaction when travelling through a medium it is therefore also called as compressional waves. In longitudinal waves, one compression and one rarefaction constitutes one wave. Compressions have the maximum density on the medium of a wave while rarefactions have minimum density on the wave medium. Wavelength can be easily determine by just measuring the distance between two compressions, or two rarefactions. Rarefactions and compressions slides from one point to another in the same direction that the wave travels. The best example of longitudinal waves we see in our daily life is sound waves including ultrasound or infrasonic waves. Sound waves when travel in the air, it creates pressure distortion in the air molecules. This distortion is compression and rarefactions which is in the medium. The particles of air move to and fro in direction parallel to that of travelling sound wave.

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What is Transverse Wave?

Transverse wave is formed when vibration of particles of the medium conveying a wave that is perpendicular to the direction of the propagation of the wave. These waves don’t carry matter along with them but they transport energy as they travel through them. So the particles do not move along with the wave, they simply oscillate up and down at their individual equilibrium positions as the wave passed by. Transverse waves travels in the form of crests and troughs.in Transverse wave, one crest and one trough constitutes one wave. The best examples of the transverse waves are beach waves moving towards a shore, waves produced on a guitar string or waves produced while jumping on a rope. Transvers waves can only move through solid medium because in liquid and gases transverse waves fall apart. Electromagnetic waves like visible light waves and X-rays are also examples of transverse waves.

Key Difference

  1. Longitudinal wave is formed when vibration of particles of the medium conveying a wave parallel to the direction of the propagation of the wave while transverse wave is formed when vibrations of the particles of the medium conveying a wave perpendicular to the direction of the propagation of the wave.
  2. Longitudinal acts only in one dimension or plane while transverse waves acts in two dimensions.
  3. Longitudinal wave can travel through gas, liquid or solid medium while transverse wave can only travel through solid and liquid medium.
  4. Longitudinal wave is made up of compressions and rarefactions while transverse wave is made up of crests and troughs.
  5. A longitudinal wave cannot be polarized while a transverse wave can be polarized.
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Video Explanation

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