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Wave Terminology

This is the AQA version closing after June 2019. Visit the the version for Eduqas instead.

a

Wave Technical Terms

b

Sine Wave

• This image shows a sine wave.
• It has a smooth regular shape.
• It is special because this signal contains a single frequency.
• Other wave shapes contain multiple frequencies.

c

Cycle

• One complete wave including one peak and one trough.
d

Wavelength

• The distance between one peak and the next. Any point on the wave could be used but peaks are convenient.
e

Frequency

The number of cycles per second measured in Hertz (Hz).

• Frequency = 1 / Period
f

Period

The time for one complete cycle to pass measured in seconds.

• Period = 1 / Frequency
g

Peak

• The highest point on the wave.
h

Trough

• The lowest point on the wave.
i

Displacement

• The distance the medium has moved from its mean position.
j

Amplitude

• This is the peak (of maximum) displacement. The size of the wave measured from the centre line usually in Volts.

k

Polarisation

• The orientation of the electric Field. (Usually Horizontal, Vertical or Circular).
l

Calculating The Wavelength

• Speed of Light = Frequency * Wavelength
• C = F λ
• λ = C / F
m

Calculating The Frequency

• Speed of Light = Frequency * Wavelength
• C = F λ
• F = C / λ
• C = 3x108 ms-1

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