Daniel A. Russell, Graduate program in Acoustics, The Pennsylvania State college

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You are watching: In a transverse wave the medium vibrates

The contents of this web page was originally posted on august 26, 1998. Animations were last updated on August 5, 2016. The HTML password was modification to be HTML5 compliant on in march 18, 2013.

Longitudinal and also Transverse wave Motion

Mechanical Waves space waves i beg your pardon propagate through a product medium (solid, liquid, or gas) at a wave rate which counts on the elastic and also inertial properties of the medium. There space two basic types that wave motion for mechanically waves: longitudinal waves and also transverse waves. The animations listed below demonstrate both varieties of wave and also illustrate the difference in between the activity of the wave and the movement of the corpuscle in the tool through which the tide is travelling.

The adhering to animations were created using a modifed version of the Mathematica® Notebook " Sound Waves" by carpet Bengtsson.

Longitudinal tide

In a longitudinal wave the fragment displacement is parallel to the direction of wave propagation. The animation at right mirrors a one-dimensional longitudinal plane wave propagating down a tube. The particles execute not relocate down the tube through the wave; they simply oscillate ago and forth about their separation, personal, instance equilibrium positions. Choose a single particle and watch the motion. The tide is seen as the activity of the compressed an ar (ie, the is a press wave), which moves from left to right.

The 2nd animation in ~ right shows the difference between the oscillatory motion of separation, personal, instance particles and also the propagation that the wave v the medium. The animation also identifies the areas of compression and rarefaction.The ns waves (Primary waves) in one earthquake are instances of Longitudinal waves. The p waves travel with the faster velocity and are the very first to arrive.

To view a animations of spherical longitudinal waves inspect out: Sound Radiation from straightforward Sources Radiation indigenous Cylindrical Sources

In a transverse wave the fragment displacement is perpendicular come the direction of tide propagation.The animation below reflects a one-dimensional transverse plane wave propagating from left come right. The particles execute not move in addition to the wave; they just oscillate up and also down around their separation, personal, instance equilibrium positions as the tide passes by. Choose a single particle and also watch that is motion.

The S waves (Secondary waves) in an earthquake are instances of Transverse waves. S tide propagate through a velocity slower 보다 P waves, showing up several seconds later.


Water waves are an example of waves the involve a mix of both longitudinal and transverse motions. As a tide travels v the waver, the particles travel in clockwise circles. The radius of the circles decreases together the depth into the water increases. The computer animation at right reflects a water tide travelling native left to right in a an ar where the depth the the water is greater than the wavelength of the waves. Ns have figured out two corpuscle in orange to present that every particle indeed travels in a clockwise circle together the wave passes.

Another instance of waves through both longitudinal and also transverse motion might be found in solids as Rayleigh surface ar waves (named after john W. Strutt, third Baron Rayleigh who first studied them in 1885). The particles in a solid, v which a Rayleigh surface ar wave passes, relocate in elliptical paths, v the major axis the the ellipse perpendicular to the surface ar of the solid. Together the depth right into the solid rises the "width" the the elliptical path decreases.

Rayleigh waves in an elastic solid are various from surface ar waves in water in a an extremely important way. In a water tide all particles take trip in clockwise circles. However, in a Rayleigh surface wave, corpuscle at the surface ar trace the end a counter-clockwise ellipse, while particles at a depth of much more than 1/5th the a wavelength trace out clockwise ellispes. This motion is regularly referred to as being "retrograde" since at the surface, the horizontal component of the particle motion is in the opposite direction together the tide propagation direction. Ns have determined two corpuscle in orange in this computer animation to highlight the retrograde elliptical course at the surface and also the reversal in the direction of motion as a function of depth.

The Rayleigh surface ar waves room the tide that reason the most damage during one earthquake. Castle travel v velocities slower 보다 S waves, and also arrive later, however with much better amplitudes. This are also the waves that are most easily felt during an earthquake and also involve both up-down and also side-to-side motion.

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Update (Aug. 5, 2016): thanks to Dongyao Li (graduate college student at the university of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) that asked questions causing a much improved version that this animation.