Longitudinal and Transverse Wave Motion

Dr. Daniel A. Russell, Kettering University, Flint, MI
Animations were created using Mathematica 3.0
Localització original: http://www.gmi.edu/~drussell/Demos/waves/wavemotion.html

Mechanical Waves are waves which propagate through a material medium (solid, liquid, or gas) at a wave speed which depends on the elastic and inertial properties of that medium. There are two basic types of wave motion for mechanical waves: longitudinal waves and transverse waves. The animations below demonstrate both types of wave and illustrate the difference between the motion of the wave and the motion of the particles in the medium through which the wave is travelling.


[The following animations were created using a modifed version of the Mathematica® Notebook " Sound Waves" by Mats Bengtsson.]

Longitudinal Waves

In a longitudinal wave the particle displacement is parallel to the direction of wave propagation. The animation below shows a one-dimensional longitudinal plane wave propagating down a tube. The particles do not move down the tube with the wave; they simply oscillate back and forth about their individual equilibrium positions. Pick a single particle and watch its motion. The wave is seen as the motion of the compressed region (ie, it is a pressure wave), which moves from left to right.

To see a animations of spherical longitudinal waves check out:


Transverse Waves

In a transverse wave the particle displacement is perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation. The animation below shows a one-dimensional transverse plane wave propagating from left to right. The particles do not move along with the wave; they simply oscillate up and down about their individual equilibrium positions as the wave passes by. Pick a single particle and watch its motion.


Water Waves

Water waves are an example of waves that involve a combination of both longitudinal and transverse motions. As a wave travels through the waver, the particles travel in clockwise circles. The radius of the circles decreases as the depth into the water increases. The movie below shows a water wave travelling from left to right in a region where the depth of the water is greater than the wavelength of the waves. I have identified two particles in yellow to show that each particle indeed travels in a clockwise circle as the wave passes.



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