Wavelength, Frequency and Energy Compared

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

Wavelength Frequency and Energy Compared

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

  1. What type of electromagnetic radiation has the shortest wavelengths?
  2. What type of electromagnetic radiation has the highest frequency?
  3. Do radio waves or gamma rays transport more energy?
  4. Shorter wavelength = higher frequency or lower frequency?
  5. Lower frequency = longer wavelengths or shorter wavelengths?

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 of the electromagnetic spectrum shows how wavelength, frequency and energy are related to one another.

  • The diagram shows that the electromagnetic spectrum can be described as bands of electromagnetic radiation. Radio waves which have the longest wavelengths and the lowest frequency appear at the top of the diagram whilst gamma rays which have the shortest wavelengths but the highest frequencies appear at the bottom.
  • A magnified view of the visible spectrum is shown on the left of the diagram. It forms a very small band of wavelengths, frequencies and energies within the electromagnetic spectrum as a whole.
  • Compare wavelength, frequency and energy by reading across the three columns.
  • For example, notice that in the wavelength column, the boundary between microwaves and radio waves is around 10 cm (centimetres). The corresponding value in the frequency column is 3GHz (gigahertz) and the energy column shows the energy carried by these waves as being between 1.24 µeV (microelectron volts) and 1.24 MeV (megaelectron volt).

Notice that:

  • There are arrows in each column that show the longest wavelength in the wavelength column is at the top whilst the highest frequency and highest energies are at the bottom of their respective columns.
  • The standard units in the three columns are metres, hertz and electronvolts, but metric prefixes are used to cope with the huge differences of scale from the top to the bottom of each column.
  • Wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency and energy, so the arrow in the wavelength column faces in the opposite direction to the other two.
  • Frequency and energy are directionally proportional so the arrows in those two columns face in the same direction.
  • The relationship between wavelength, frequency and energy means that:
    • As the wavelength of an electromagnetic wave get shorter its frequency increases and as wavelength gets longer its frequency decreases.
    • As the wavelength of an electromagnetic wave get shorter and its frequency increases and the amount of energy it transports becomes greater.
    • As the energy transported by an electromagnetic wave increases so does its frequency whilst its wavelength gets shorter.

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.

Electronvolt

An electronvolt is a unit of energy commonly used to measure the energy carried by electromagnetic radiation. Electronvolts can be ...
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Energy

Energy is a property of matter. Everything contains energy including all forms of matter and so all objects. Energy is ...
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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 ...
Read More

Nanometre

A nanometre is a unit of measurement of the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation ...
Read More

Wavelength

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

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