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Difference Between Mechanical and Electromagnetic Waves

Mechanical vs Electromagnetic Waves

Waves can be divided using several methods. And one such method of differentiating it is by the means of the medium in which they travel. As per the medium, the waves can be differentiated as mechanical and electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves are waves that have no medium to travel whereas mechanical waves need a medium for its transmission.

Electromagnetic waves travel in a vacuum whereas mechanical waves do not. The mechanical waves need a medium like water, air, or anything for it to travel. The ripples made in a pool of water after a stone is thrown in the middle are an example of mechanical waves. Examples of electromagnetic waves include light and radio signals. While an electromagnetic wave is called just a disturbance, a mechanical wave is considered a periodic disturbance.

Mechanical waves are also called elastic waves as their propagation depends on the elastic properties of the medium through which the waves pass. Electromagnetic waves are caused because of the varying magnetic and electric fields. While mechanical waves are caused by wave amplitude and not by frequency, electromagnetic waves are produced by the vibration of the charged particles. When comparing the speed of mechanical and electromagnetic waves, the former travels at low speed.

Mechanical waves are divided into three categories: Transverse waves, longitudinal waves, and surface waves. In transverse waves, the medium moves perpendicular to the wave direction, and in longitudinal waves, the medium moves parallel to the wave direction. In surface waves, both transverse and longitudinal waves mix in a single medium. In very simple words, an electronic wave is that which travels in a vacuum, and a mechanical wave is that which needs some medium for traveling.
Summary:

1. Electromagnetic waves travel in a vacuum whereas mechanical waves do not.
2. The ripples made in a pool of water after a stone is thrown in the middle are an example of mechanical wave. Examples of electromagnetic waves include light and radio signals.
3. Mechanical waves are caused by wave amplitude and not by frequency. Electromagnetic Waves are produced by vibration of the charged particles.
4. While an electromagnetic wave is called just a disturbance, a mechanical wave is considered a periodic disturbance.


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