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Published by: SurayNavee on Jun 21, 2012
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he electromagnetic spectrum consists of all the frequencies at which electromagnetic waves can occur,ordered from zero to infinity. Radio waves, visible light, and x rays are examples of electromagnetic waves atdifferent frequencies. Every part of the electromagnetic spectrum is exploited for some form of scientific ormilitary activity; the entire spectrum is also key to science and industry. Forensic scientists often useultraviolet light technologies to search for latent fingerprints and to examine articles of clothing. Infrared andnear-infrared light technology is used by forensic scientists to record images on specialized film and inspectroscopy ,a tool that determines the chemical structure of a molecule (such as DNA)without damaging the molecule.Electromagnetic waves have been known since the mid-nineteenth century, when their behavior was firstdescribed by the equations of Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831
1879). Electromagnetic waves,according to Maxwell's equations, are generated whenever an electrical charge (e.g., an electron) isaccelerated, that is, changes its direction of motion, its speed, or both. An electromagnetic wave is so namedbecause it consists of an electric and a magnetic field propagating together through space. As the electric fieldvaries with time, it renews the magnetic field; as the magnetic field varies, it renews the electric field. The twocomponents of the wave, which always point at right angles both to each other and to their direction of motion, are thus mutually sustaining, and form a wave which moves forward through empty spaceindefinitely. The rate at which energy is periodically exchanged between the electric and magnetic components of a given
electromagnetic wave is the frequency, ν, of that wave and has units of cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz); the
linear distance between the wave's p
eaks is termed its wavelength, λ, and has units of length (e.g., feet or
meters). The speed at which a wave travels is the product of its wavelength and its frequency,
= νλ; in the
case of electromagnetic waves, Maxwell's equations require that this velocity equal the speed of light,
186,000 miles per second [300,000 km/sec]). Since the velocity of all electromagnetic waves is fixed, the
wavelength λ of an electromagnetic wave always determines its frequency ν, or vice versa, by the relationship
= νλ The higher the frequency (i.e., the shorter the wavelength) of an electromagnetic wave, the higher in the
spectrum it is said to be. Since a wave cannot have a frequency less than zero, the spectrum is bound by zeroat its lower end. In theory, it has no upper limit.All atoms and molecules at temperatures above absolute zero radiate electromagnetic waves at specificfrequencies that are determined by the details of their internal structure. In quantum physics, this radiationmust often be described as consisting of particles called photons rather than as waves; however, this articlewill restrict itself to the classical (continuous-wave) treatment of electromagnetic radiation, which is adequatefor most technological purposes.Not only do atoms and molecules radiate electromagnetic waves at certain frequencies, they can absorb themat the same frequencies. All material objects, therefore, are continuously absorbing and radiatingelectromagnetic waves having various frequencies, thus exchanging energy with other objects, near and far. This makes it possible to observe objects at a distance by detecting the electromagnetic waves that they radiate or reflect, or to affect them in various ways by beaming electromagnetic waves at them. These factsmake the manipulation of electromagnetic waves at various frequencies (i.e., from various parts of theelectromagnetic spectrum) fundamental to many fields of technology and science, including radiocommunication, radar, infrared sensing, visible-light imaging, lasers, x rays, astronomy, and more.
 The spectrum has been divided up by physicists into a number of frequency ranges or bands denoted by convenient names. The points at which these bands begin and end do not correspond to shifts in the physicsof electromagnetic radiation; rather, they reflect the importance of different frequency ranges for humanpurposes.Radio waves are typically produced by time-varying electrical currents in relatively large objects (i.e., at leastcentimeters across). This category of electromagnetic waves extends from the lowest-frequency, longest-wavelength electromagnetic waves up into the gigahertz (GHz; billions of cycles per second) range. The radiofrequency spectrum is divided into more than 450 non-overlapping frequency bands. These bands areexploited by different users and technologies: for example, broadcast FM is transmitted using frequencies onthe order of 10
Hz, while television signals are transmitted using frequencies on the order of 10
Hz (about ahundred times higher). In general, higher-frequency signals can always be used to transmit lower-frequency information, but not the reverse; thus, a voice signal with a maximum frequency content of 20 kHz (kilohertz,thousands of Hertz) can, if desired, be transmitted on a signal centered in the Ghz range, but it is impossibleto transmit a television signal over a broadcast FM station. Radio waves termed microwaves are used for high-speed communications links, heating food, radar, and electromagnetic weapons, that is, devices designed toirritate or injure people or to disable enemy devices. The microwave frequencies used for communications andradar are subdivided still further into frequency bands with special designations, such as "X band" and "Yband." Microwave radiation from the Big Bang, the cosmic explosion in which the Universe originated,pervades all of space.Electromagnetic waves from approximately 10
to 5 10
Hz are termed infrared radiation. The word infraredmeans "below red," and is assigned to these waves because their frequencies are just below those of red light,the lowest-frequency light visible to human beings. Infrared radiation is typically produced by molecularvibrations and rotations (i.e., heat) and causes or accelerates such motions in the molecules of objects thatabsorb it; it is therefore perceived by the body through the increased warmth of skin exposed to it. Since allobjects above absolute zero emit infrared radiation, electronic devices sensitive to infrared can form imageseven in the absence of visible light. Because of their ability to "see" at night, imaging devices thatelectronically create visible images from infrared light from are important in security systems, on thebattlefield, and in observations of the Earth from space for both scientific and military purposes.Visible light consists of elecromagnetic waves with frequencies in the 4.3 10
to 7.5 10
Hz range. Waves inthis narrow band are typically produced by rearrangements (orbital shifts) in the outer electrons of atoms.Most of the energy in the sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface consists of electromagnetic waves in thisnarrow frequency range; our eyes have therefore evolved to be sensitive to this band of the electromagneticspectrum. Photo-voltaic cells
electronic devices that turn incident electromagnetic radiation into electricity 
are also designed to work primarily in this band, and for the same reason. Because half the Earth is liberally illuminated by visible light at all times, this band of the spectrum, though narrow (less than an octave), isessential to thousands of applications, including all forms of natural and many forms of mechanical vision.Ultraviolet light consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies in the 7.5 10
to 10
Hz range. It istypically produced by rearrangements in the outer and intermediate electrons of atoms. Ultraviolet light isinvisible, but can cause chemical changes in many substances: for living things, consequences of thesechemical changes can include skin burns, blindness, or cancer. Ultraviolet light can also cause somesubstances to give off visible light (flouresce), a property useful for mineral detection, art-forgery detection,
and other applications. Various industrial processes employ ultraviolet light, including photolithography, inwhich patterned chemical changes are produced rapidly over an entire film or surface by projecting patternedultraviolet light onto it. Most ultraviolet light from the Sun is absorbed by a thin layer of ozone (O
) in thestratosphere, making the Earth's surface much more hospitable to life than it would be otherwise; somechemicals produced by human industry (e.g., chlorfluorocarbons) destroy ozone, threatening this protectivelayer.Electromagnetic waves with frequencies from about 10
to 10
Hz are termed x rays. X rays are typically produced by rearrangements of electrons in the innermost orbitals of atoms. When absorbed, x rays arecapable of ejecting electrons entirely from atoms and thus ionizing them (i.e., causing them to have a netpositive electric charge). Ionization is destructive to living tissues because ions may abandon their originalmolecular bonds and form new ones, altering the structure of a DNA molecule or some other aspect of cellchemistry. However, x rays are useful in medical diagnosis and in security systems (e.g., airline luggagescanners) because they can pass entirely through many solid objects; both traditional contrast images of internal structure (often termed "x rays" for short) and modern computerized axial tomography images, whichgive much more information, depend on the penetrating power of x rays. X rays are produced in largequantities by nuclear explosions (as are electromagnetic waves at all other frequencies above the radio band),and have been proposed for use in a space-based ballistic-missile defense system.All electromagnetic waves above about 10
Hz are termed gamma rays (g rays), which are typically producedby rearrangements of particles in atomic nuclei. A nuclear explosion produces large quantities of gammaradiation, which is both directly and indirectly destructive of life. By interacting with the Earth's magneticfield, gamma rays from a high-altitude nuclear explosion can cause an intense pulse of radio waves termed anelectromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMP may be powerful enough to burn out unprotected electronics on the groundover a wide area.Radio waves present a unique regulatory problem, for only one broadcaster at a particular frequency canfunction in a given area. (Signals from overlapping same-frequency broadcasts would be receivedsimultaneously by antennas, interfering with each other.) Throughout the world, therefore, governmentsregulate the radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, a process termed spectrum allocation. In theUnited States, since the passage of the Communications Act of 1934, the radio spectrum has been deemed apublic resource. Individual private broadcasters are given licenses allowing them to use specific portions of this resource, that is, specific sub-bands of the radio spectrum. The United States Commerce Department'sNational Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and FCC (Federal CommunicationsCommission) oversee the spectrum allocation process, which is subject to intense lobbying by varioustelecommunications stakeholders.In summary, it can be said that the manipulation of every level of the electromagnetic spectrum is of urgenttechnological interest, but most work is being done in the radio through the visible portions of the spectrum(below 7.5 10
Hz), where communications, radar, and imaging can be accomplished.

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