Waves can be described as oscillations or vibrations, which are back and forth movements.
All waves transfer energy; however, they do not transfer matter.
There are two types of waves:
In a longitudinal wave, the oscillations are parallel to the direction of wave travel.
In a longitudinal wave, there are regions of compression and rarefaction, as you can see in the diagram above.
Examples of longitudinal waves are:
In a transverse wave, the oscillations are perpendicular (at a 90° angle) to the direction of wave travel.
Examples of transverse waves are:
On the wave diagram below, you can see basic features, such as the peak and trough of the wave.
Peak – The highest point above the midpoint.
Trough – The lowest point below the midpoint.
To display and analyse the waveform of longitudinal waves, an oscilloscope can be used.
For example, if you use an oscilloscope to study a sound wave (which is a longitudinal wave), you can view the waveform as if it were a transverse wave.
Below, you can see a wave diagram that illustrates the properties of waves.
The three wave properties are:
Wavelength – The distance between one peak of a wave and the next peak directly beside it, or any two identical points on the wave that are right next to each other.
Amplitude – The distance between the midpoint and the peak of the wave, or the midpoint and the trough of the wave.
Frequency – The number of complete waves that pass a given point per second. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz).