What is Electromagnetic wave or EM wave?

As we know that waves are also a form of vibrations, hence the vibrations produced between Electric fields and magnetic fields are called Electromagnetic waves or EM waves. On another hand, an Electromagnetic wave or EM wave is defined as the vibrations produced between an electric field and magnetic field. The formation of an Electromagnetic wave occurs when both fields (Electric and Magnetic) are perpendicular to each other or makes 90-degree angles from one another. The word Electromagnetic is a combination of two different words as follows:

Electromagnetic Waves= Electric field + Magnetic field

Properties of Electromagnetic waves:

There are some key parameters of an Electromagnetic wave are as follows-

  1. Wavelength (λ = c/f)
  2. Frequency (f = c / λ)
  3. Velocity (c= f λ)

The Electromagnetic Spectrum or EM Spectrum:

Based on the frequency (f) and wavelength (λ) the Electromagnetic waves can be arranged into different arrays of frequencies, which is called the Electromagnetic spectrum. Below is the table to categorize the EM waves as follows:

Type of Radiation Frequency Range (Hz) Wavelength Range
gamma-rays 1020 – 1024 < 10-12 m
x-rays 1017 – 1020 1 nm – 1 pm
ultraviolet 1015 – 1017 400 nm – 1 nm
visible 4 – 7.5*1014 750 nm – 400 nm
near-infrared 1*1014 – 4*1014 2.5 μm – 750 nm
infrared 1013 – 1014 25 μm – 2.5 μm
microwaves 3*1011 – 1013 1 mm – 25 μm
radio waves < 3*1011 > 1 mm


Electromagnetic waves with shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies include UV light, X-rays, and Gamma rays, further Electromagnetic waves with higher wavelengths and lower frequencies include infrared light, microwaves, radio waves, and television waves.


Further, the Electromagnetic waves travel with a constant velocity of 3.00 x 108 ms-1. These waves neither deflected by electric fields nor by a magnetic field. EM waves also show interference or Diffraction. These EM waves also travel through different mediums like air, solid, or vacuum.

Unlike sound waves and water waves, Electromagnetic waves can propagate from one place to another without any medium. Electromagnetic waves are transverse in nature, which means that height in terms of amplitude and distance in terms of wavelength.

The wavelength of EM waves is defined as the distance between the highest and lowest points of two consecutive waves. The highest point is called Crest and the lowest point is called Trough.

Electromagnetic wave
Electromagnetic wave

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