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Electromagnetic Waves

Electromagnetic waves are the waves in which electric and magnetic fields vary with time and
space with the same frequency. The variations of electric and magnetic fields are sinusoidal in
character and both of them vibrate perpendicular to each other and perpendicular to the direction
of propagation of the wave.

Some important points:

(1) Electromagnetic waves can travel through vacuum.
(2) These waves are produced by accelerated or oscillating electric charge.
(3) The sinusoidal variations of and occur with the same frequency and hence they attain the
maxima and minima at the same time .
(4) The amplitudes of electric and magnetic fields bear a constant ratio of the speed of light i.e.
Eo/Bo = c
(5) The speed of electromagnetic waves is a function of the electric and magnetic properties of
the medium in which these waves travel and is independent of the amplitude of the field vectors.
(6) The velocity of light in free space is given by

Conduction current & displacement current

Conduction current is the electric current which exists in a conductor when the electrons flow in
the conductor at a uniform rate. So, it is the current in a conductor when the electric field remains
constant with respect to time.
Suppose E is changing w.r.t. time, then is also changing w.r.t. time. In this case the current in the
region is a displacement current (ID).

Understanding displacement current

The current existing between the plates of a parallel plate capacitor is the displacement current.
Note that the conduction current is due to the flow of electrons, whereas the displacement
current is due to displacement of electrons in a time-varying electric field.

The importance of displacement current lies in maintaining a continuity to the path of current
flow through the capacitor.
Example 1.In a region in space, closed loops of are found. What is your conclusion regarding
flowing of actual charges across the area bounded by the loop.
Solution : Just because there are closed loops of present in a region in space, it does not
necessarily imply that actual charges flow across the area bounded by the loop. A displacement
current (such as that between the plates of a parallel-plate capacitor) can also produce loops of .

Exercise 1. A changing electric field in a region produces closed loops of B . Comment on E

and dE/dt regarding whether they are non-zero at all points on the loop and in the area
enclosed by the loop.
[Hint: The basic idea is to have a time-varying total electric flux through the area enclosed by
the loop. On the loop, in particular, there should be no electric field]
Amperes Circuital law & Maxwells modification

Amperes Circuital law states that

Maxwells observation : Conduction current I and the displacement current ID together possess
the property of continuity along any closed path. Hence

This is Ampere-Maxwell law

(1) Like conduction current displacement current is also a source of magnetic field.
(2) Even though (I + ID) is always continuous along any closed path, individually I and ID may
not be continuous.
Maxwells equations :( Four basic laws of electricity and magnetism )