Frequency of Electromagnetic Waves

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To find out more about the diagram above . . . . read on!

Frequency of Electromagnetic Waves

Look carefully at the diagram at the top of the page. Now check out the following questions (and answers)!

  1. What unit of measurement is used to measure the frequency of electromagnetic waves?
  2. How many Kilohertz are the in one Hertz?
  3. Which colour of visible light has a higher frequency, red or violet?
  4. Does energy increase with frequency?
  5. As frequency increases does wavelength decrease in length?

About the Diagram

Introducing the diagram! Read back and forward between the image at the top of the page and the explanation below!

This diagram looks at the frequency of electromagnetic waves.

  • It shows that the frequency of electromagnetic radiation (light) refers to the number of wave-cycles of an electromagnetic wave that pass a given point in a given amount of time.
  • The frequency of an electromagnetic wave can be thought about in the same way as the frequency of trains that pass through a railway station. If a train passes through a station every 10 minutes then the frequency is six trains per hour.

Remember that:

  • The frequency of a wave should not be confused with the speed at which the wave travels or the distance it travels.
  • The term frequency refers to the measurement of the frequency of wave oscillations that pass a given point in a given amount of time.
  • The unit of measurement of frequency is the hertz. One hertz equals one wave-cycle per second.
  • Because the frequency of some electromagnetic waves is so small, Hertz is sub-divided into kilohertz, megahertz, gigahertz and terahertz.
  • The wavelength and frequency of light are closely related. In any given medium, the higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength.
  • The amount of energy transported by a light wave increases with the frequency of oscillations (wave-cycle) and as the length of each oscillation decreases.

Understanding the diagram:

  • The diagram shows that the frequency of waves is counted in wave-cycles. One wave-cycle is shown as a dotted yellow line which follows the wave.
  • The dotted yellow line below the wave measures three complete cycles. The measurement is from the peak of the first wave to the peak of the third.
  • The point at which measurement of passing wave-cycles is taken is shown as a vertical line with a clock face below it.
  • The measurement involves calculating how long it takes for the three wave-cycles to pass the clock.
  • The diagram shows that the time it takes in this example is one second.
  • The frequency, in this case, is 3 wave-cycles per second which equal 3 Hertz (Hz).

Follow the blue links for definitions . . . . or check the summaries of key terms below!

Some Key Terms

Move to the next level! Check out the following terms.

Electromagnetic radiation

Electromagnetic radiation is a type of energy more commonly simply called light. Detached from its source, it is transported by ...
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Electromagnetic wave

An electromagnetic wave carries electromagnetic radiation. An electromagnetic wave is formed as electromagnetic radiation propagates from a light source, travels ...
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Frequency

The frequency of electromagnetic radiation (light) refers to the number of wave-cycles of an electromagnetic wave that pass a given ...
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Hertz (Hz)

The hertz (symbol: Hz) is a unit used to measure the frequency of electromagnetic waves. Hertz are used when measuring ...
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Wave-cycle

A wave-cycle refers to the path of a wave measured from any point through the course of a single oscillation ...
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Wavelength

Wavelength is a measurement from any point on the path of a wave to the same point on its next ...
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