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Chapter 11: Properties of Waves

Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Waves:
1. A wave is a means of transferring energy and information from one point
to another without there being any transfer of matter between the two
points.

2. Waves can be divided into two types based on their ability or inability to
transmit energy through a vacuum (i.e., empty space).
a. Mechanical waves- waves which propagate through a material
medium (solid, liquid, or gas)
i. Sound waves are examples of mechanical waves.
b. Electromagnetic waves- waves which can travel through the
vacuum of outer space
i. Light waves are examples of electromagnetic waves.

3. Also waves can be divided into three types based on the direction of
movement of the individual particles of the medium relative to the
direction that the waves travel.
a. Longitudinal waves- Such a wave, motion in which particles vibrate
parallel to the direction of wave motion.
i. Sound waves are an example of longitudinal waves.

b. Transverse waves- Such a wave, motion in which particles vibrate


perpendicular to the direction of wave motion.
i. Light waves are an example of longitudinal waves.

c. Surface waves- Particle move in a direction that is both parallel and


perpendicular to the direction of wave motion.

Sanjaya Perera(BSc(Hons).Maths(Sp)) - 0773 440 468 Page 1


Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Check Your Understanding


1) A transverse wave is transporting energy from east to west. The particles of
the medium will move_____.
a. east to west only
b. both eastward and westward
c. north to south only
d. both northward and southward

2) A wave is transporting energy from left to right. The particles of the medium
are moving back and forth in a leftward and rightward direction. This type of
wave is known as a ____.
a. Mechanical
b. Transverse
c. Electromagnetic
d. longitudinal

3) A sound wave is a mechanical wave, not an electromagnetic wave. This means


that
a. Particles of the medium move perpendicular to the direction of energy
transport.
b. A sound wave transports its energy through a vacuum.
c. Particles of the medium regularly and repeatedly oscillate about their
rest position.
d. A medium is required in order for sound waves to transport energy.

4) Which of the following is not a characteristic of mechanical waves?


a. They consist of disturbances or oscillations of a medium.
b. They transport energy.
c. They travel in a direction that is at right angles to the direction of the
particles of the medium.
d. They are created by a vibrating source.

5) The sonar device on a fishing boat uses underwater sound to locate fish.
Would you expect sonar to be a longitudinal or a transverse wave? Give your
reasons.
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Sanjaya Perera(BSc(Hons).Maths(Sp)) - 0773 440 468 Page 2


Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Describing waves
1. Wave length- the distance from crest to crest (or from trough to trough) or
between any two corresponding points on adjacent waves.
a. Wave length is measured in meters (m).

2. Amplitude- the maximum displacement of the particles that make up a


wave from their rest position.
a. The amplitude is the height of a crest or the depth of a trough.

3. Frequency- the number of wave peaks that pass a point in one second.
Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz).
a. 1 Hz= 1 peak per second
b. 1KHz= 1000 peaks per second

4. Period of a wave- the time taken to complete one cycle of the wave form.
Time period of wave is measured in seconds (s).
Frequency = =

Sanjaya Perera(BSc(Hons).Maths(Sp)) - 0773 440 468 Page 3


Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Check Your Understanding


1) Calculate the time period of a wave of frequency 50Hz.

2) Calculate the frequency of a wave of time period 0.05seconds.

3) Find the period of the wave and hence calculate the frequency of the wave.
Displacemen

50 Time (s)
t

4) Choose appropriate words to fill in the gaps below:

a. A wave transfers _______ without the movement of _______ from one place to
another.
b. In a __________ wave the particle ____________ are perpendicular to the
direction of wave travel.
c. Frequency is equal to the number of waves produced by a source in one
_________.
d. Time period is equal to the ___________ of the frequency.
e. The speed of a wave in m/s is equal to its __________ in metres multiplied by
its __________ in hertz.

(frequency, transverse, reciprocal, energy, second, vibration, wavelength,


matter)

The wave equation


1. Speed of the wave is equal to the frequency multiply by the wave length.
= ; Wave length in meters (m), frequency in hertz (Hz or s-1)

2. Units of speed;
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Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Reflection- This occurs when a wave travelling in one medium strikes the
surface of a different medium and changes direction so that it returns back
into the medium in which it was originally travelling in.
1. Simply put the waves bounce back.

2. Examples of reflection are light waves striking a mirror or echoes in which


sound waves are reflected of a solid surface.

3. When waves undergo reflection the angle the incoming waves make with
the surface is equal to the angle of the reflected waves. That is;
Angle of incidence = Angle of reflection

4. When the waves strike a concave barrier, they are made to converge
(curved).

5. When the waves strike a convex barrier, they are made to diverge (spread).

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Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Refraction- The speed at which a wave travels is dependent upon the medium
in which it travels along or through. The speed of a wave changes when a wave
moves from one medium to another. This change in wave speed is
accompanied by a change in wavelength and change in direction. It is this
change of direction or bending of the wave as it passes from one medium to
another that is called refraction.

1. A change in wave speed causes a change in wavelength as the frequency


cannot change.

2. Example: Fishing, Pencil in a glass of water

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Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

Diffraction- Diffraction is the spreading of waves that happens when it passes


through a narrow opening or when it passes round a small obstacle along its
path.
1. Diffraction becomes more significant when the size of the gap or obstacle is
reduced compared with the wavelength of the wave.

2. Diffraction occurs with waves of all types.

3. Diffraction can be demonstrated by placing small barriers and obstacles in


a ripple tank and observing the path of the water waves as they encounter
the obstacles.

The waves are seen to pass around the barrier into the regions
behind it; subsequently the water behind the barrier is disturbed.

Water waves are diffracted more if the Opening is narrow or Obstacle


is small.

The amount of diffraction (the sharpness of the bending) increases


with increasing wavelength.

Diffraction of water waves is observed in a harbor as waves bend


around small boats and are found to disturb the water behind them.
The same waves however are unable to diffract around larger boats
since their wavelength is smaller than the boat.

Sanjaya Perera(BSc(Hons).Maths(Sp)) - 0773 440 468 Page 7


Chapter 11: Properties of Waves
Edexcel IGCSE in Physics

End of chapter 11 Questions


1) Define amplitude of a wave.
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2) Define wavelength.
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3) Define frequency.
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4) What is the unit for amplitude?


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5) What is the unit for wavelength?


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6) What is the unit of frequency?


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7) What is a longitudinal wave?


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8) What is a transverse wave?


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9) What is a mechanical wave?


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10)What is an electromagnetic wave?


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11)What type of energy reaches us from outer space?


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