Difference Between Electromagnetic Waves and Radio Waves

Electromagnetic Waves vs Radio Waves

Electromagnetic waves are a type of wave that is present in nature. The applications of electromagnetic waves are endless. The theory of electromagnetism is a vast field in classical mechanics and in modern physics, as well. The theories of electromagnetism and knowledge of electromagnetic waves and radio waves are applied in a vast number of fields such as physics, telecommunication, astronomy, optics, relativistic mechanics and various other fields. In this article, we are going to discuss what electromagnetic waves and radio waves are, their applications, the definitions of electromagnetic waves and radio waves, the similarities and finally the difference between electromagnetic waves and radio waves.

Electromagnetic Waves

Electromagnetic waves, more commonly known as EM waves, were first proposed by James Clerk Maxwell. This was later confirmed by Heinrich Hertz who successfully produced the first EM wave. Maxwell derived the wave form for electric and magnetic waves and successfully predicted the speed of these waves. Since this wave velocity was equal to the experimental value of speed of light, Maxwell also proposed that light was, in fact, a form of EM waves. Electromagnetic waves have both an electric field and a magnetic field oscillating perpendicular to each other and perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation. All electromagnetic waves have the same velocity in vacuum. The frequency of the electromagnetic wave decided the energy stored in it. Later it was shown using quantum mechanics that these waves are, in fact, packets of waves. The energy of this packet depends on the frequency of the wave. This opened the field of wave – particle duality of matter. Now it can be seen that electromagnetic radiation can be considered as waves and particles. An object that is placed in any temperature above the absolute zero will emit EM waves of every wavelength. The energy, which emits the maximum number of photons, depends on the temperature of the body.

Radio Waves

To understand the concept of radio waves one must first understand the concept of the electromagnetic spectrum. Electromagnetic waves are classified into several regions according to their energy. X-rays, ultraviolet, infrared, visible, radio waves are to name a few of them. A spectrum is the plot of intensity versus energy of the electromagnetic rays. The energy can also be represented in wavelength or frequency. A continuous spectrum is a spectrum in which all the wavelengths of the selected region have intensities. The perfect white light is a continuous spectrum over the visible region. Radio waves are the electromagnetic waves that lie in the region of 300 GHz to 3 kHz.


What is the difference between Electromagnetic Waves and Radio Waves?

• Electromagnetic waves are the production of magnetic fields and electric fields oscillating normal to each other. Radio waves are a sub category of electromagnetic waves.

• Radio waves are used in astronomical observations, radio transmissions and several other applications. Electromagnetic waves are used in a vast range of applications.