10 Differences Between Longitudinal And Transverse Waves (With Examples & Similarities)

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Wave motion transfers energy from one point to another without permanent displacement of the particles of the medium. A wave can be transverse or longitudinal depending on the direction of its oscillation.

Longitudinal waves also referred to as compression waves, are waves in which the displacement of the medium is in the same direction as, or the opposite direction to, the direction of propagation of the wave. A longitudinal wave has a compression (increased intensity) of the medium particles and a rarefaction (a reduction of intensity). A typical example is a longitudinal wave is a sound wave or shock wave.

A string or slinky lying horizontal and pushed horizontally is a simple way to demonstrate a longitudinal wave.

Transverse waves

Transverse waves occur when a disturbance causes oscillations perpendicular (at right angles) to the propagation (the direction of energy transfer). Examples of transverse waves are a string on a guitar vibrating or ripples on the surface of water.

A string or slinky moving up and down (one end being held stationary and the other moving up and down) is a simple way to demonstrate a transverse wave.

Facts About Longitudinal Waves

  1. A longitudinal wave is a wave where the movement of the medium is in the same direction as the wave.
  2. Examples of longitudinal waves include: Sound waves in air, waves formed a long a compressed spring and seismic waves.
  3. Longitudinal waves cause changes in the pressure of the different parts of the medium through which they pass.
  4. Longitudinal waves can be transmitted through all the three types of media, that is solids, liquids and gases.
  5. Longitudinal waves travel in the form of alternate compressions and rarefactions.
  6. Material medium is essential for transmission of longitudinal waves.
  7. Longitudinal waves cannot be polarized.
  8. Longitudinal waves cannot travel in electromagnetic field.
  9. The speed of longitudinal wave is comparatively less to that of transverse wave.
  10. In earthquake, the primary wave is the longitudinal waves.

Facts About Transverse Waves

  1. A transverse wave is a wave where the movement of the medium is at a right angle to the wave direction.
  2. Example of transverse waves include: waves formed over water surface, EM waves and waves in stretched strings.
  3. Transverse wave do not cause pressure changes in the medium through which they pass.
  4. Transverse waves can only be transmitted through solids or over liquid surfaces.
  5. Transverse waves can be transmitted in the form of alternate crest and toughs.
  6. Material medium is not required for transmission of transverse wave.
  7. Transverse waves can be polarized.
  8. Transverse wave can travel in electromagnetic field.
  9. The speed of transverse wave is comparatively high to that of longitudinal wave.
  10. In earthquake, the secondary wave is the transverse waves.

Also Read: Difference Between Transverse Wave And Progressive Wave

Difference between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON   LONGITUDINAL WAVES TRANSVERSE WAVES
Description A longitudinal wave is a wave where the movement of the medium is in the same direction as the wave. A transverse wave is a wave where the movement of the medium is at a right angle to the wave direction.  
Examples Examples include: Sound waves in air,waves formed a long a compressed spring seismic waves Example include: waves formed over water surface, EM waves Waves in stretched strings.  
Pressure Change Waves cause changes in the pressure of the different parts of the medium through which they pass. Waves do not cause pressure changes in the medium through which they pass.  
Transmission Waves can be transmitted through all the three types of media, that is solids, liquids and gases.   Waves can only be transmitted through solids or over liquid surfaces.
Transmission Form Waves travel in the form of alternate compressions and rarefactions.   Waves can be transmitted in the form of alternate crest and toughs.
Material Medium Material medium is essential for transmission of longitudinal waves.   Material medium is not required for transmission of transverse wave.
Polarization Longitudinal waves cannot be polarized.   Transverse waves can be polarized.
Transmission In Electromagnetic Field Longitudinal waves cannot travel in electromagnetic field.   Transverse wave can travel in electromagnetic field.
Speed The speed of longitudinal wave is comparatively less to that of transverse wave.   The speed of transverse wave is comparatively more to that of longitudinal wave.  
In Earthquake In earthquake, the primary wave is the longitudinal waves. The secondary wave is the transverse waves.  

Also Read: Difference Between Waveguide And Transmission Line

Similarities Between Longitudinal Wave And Transverse Wave

  • Both waves are mechanical waves
  • Both transport energy without transporting matter.
  • Particles oscillate about their meaning position in both waves.