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Uses of Electromagnetic Waves

Quick revise

Radio Waves (communications)

TV and FM radio (short wavelength)
Direct line of sight with transmitter (do not diffract)
Medium wavelength travel further because they reflect from layers in the atmosphere

Satellite signals (Microwaves)

Frequency of microwaves pass easily through atmosphere and clouds

Cooking (Microwaves)
Microwaves are absorbed by water molecules.
These water molecules become heated > heat food
Dangers: microwaves are absorbed by living tissue Internal heating will damage or kill

Infrared Radiation (remote controls, toasters)

Any object that radiates heat radiates Infrared Radiation
Infrared Radiation is absorbed by all materials and causes heating
It is used for night vision and security cameras as Infrared Radiation is visible in daytime
or night-time
Police use it to catch criminals, army use it to detect enemy
Dangers: damage to cells (burns)

o over-exposure to UVA and B damages surface cells and eyes and can cause

There is a problem with current sunscreens which protect against

skin burning from high UVB but give inadequate protection
against free radical damage caused by UVA.

Dark skins are not necessarily safer from harm.

Sun exposure for the skin is best restricted to before 11am and
after 3pm in the UK in summer months.

o sanitary and therapeutic properties have a marked effect on architecture,
engineering and public health and have done so throughout history.
o UVC is germicidal, destroying bacteria, viruses and moulds in the air, in
water and on surfaces.
o UV synthesises vitamin D in skin, controls the endocrine system and is a
o Used in state of the art air-handling units, personal air purifiers and
swimming pool technology.
o Used to detect forged bank notes: they fluoresce in UV light; real bank notes
dont. Used to identify items outside visible spectrum areas, known as 'black

X-rays detect bone breaks
X-rays pass through flesh but not dense material like bones
Dangers: X-rays damage cells and cause cancers. Radiographer precautions include
wearing lead aprons and standing behind a lead screen to minimise exposure

Gamma Rays
Gamma Rays cause and treat cancers
In high doses, gamma can kill normal cells and cause cancers
Gamma can be used to kill mutated cells though too..

In some cases microwaves can be used to treat health problems better than drugs. Microwaves
are primarily used in medical cases as an alternative to surgery. For example an enlarged
prostate. Instead of surgically removing the problematic organ, doctors can use microwaves to
heat op the enlarging tissue of the prostate and in turn decreasing the size of the enlarged

Microwaves in this field are primarily used for clean up. They can be used to decrease air
pollutants, sanitize hospital waste, enhance dry cleaning solvents, and clean up polluted soil.


Scientists use microwaves to make a special conductor made of copper called chalcopyrite.
Microwaves can add in the process of separating chemical compounds, thus allowing scientist to
individually study each component of the compound.


Microwaves are also in cellular phones, telephones, telegraphs, television, and satellites. They
are useful in communication because they easily penetrate the earth's atmosphere. This comes in
handy primarily for space-vehicle communication.

Wireless Communication
Wireless communication, as the term implies, allows information to be exchanged between two
devices without the use of wire or cable. A wireless keyboard sends information to the computer
without the use of a keyboard cable; a cellular telephone sends information to another telephone
without the use of a telephone cable. Changing television channels, opening and closing a garage
door, and transferring a file from one computer to another can all be accomplished using wireless
technology. In all such cases, information is being transmitted and received using
electromagnetic energy, also referred to as electromagnetic radiation. One of the most familiar
sources of electromagnetic radiation is the sun; other common sources include TV and radio
signals, light bulbs and microwaves. To provide background information in understanding
wireless technology, the electromagnetic spectrum is first presented and some basic terminology

Night vision is seeing objects at night using infrared devices, which is basically increasing the
visibility in the dark without using a visible light source. These infrared devices increase the
amount of available light in the night thereby increasing visibility.

Thermal imaging is a process by which thermal images are captured and the images are
totally dependant on the amount of heat (infrared radiation) emitted by a body

Infrared lamps - These are used to keep food warm. These are lamps that emit infrared

Why are the skies blue?

The interaction of sunlight with matter can result in one of three wave behaviors: absorption,
transmission, and reflection. The atmosphere is a gaseous sea that contains a variety of types of
particles; the two most common types of matter present in the atmosphere are gaseous nitrogen
and oxygen. These particles are most effective in scattering the higher frequency and shorter
wavelength portions of the visible light spectrum. This scattering process involves the absorption
of a light wave by an atom followed by reemission of a light wave in a variety of directions. The
amount of multidirectional scattering that occurs is dependent upon the frequency of the light.
(In fact, it varies according to f4.) Atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen scatter violet light most
easily, followed by blue light, green light, etc. So as white light (ROYGBIV) from the sun passes
through our atmosphere, the high frequencies (BIV) become scattered by atmospheric particles
while the lower frequencies (ROY) are most likely to pass through the atmosphere without a
significant alteration in their direction. This scattering of the higher frequencies of light

illuminates the skies with light on the BIV end of the visible spectrum. Compared to blue light,
violet light is most easily scattered by atmospheric particles. However, our eyes are more
sensitive to light with blue frequencies. Thus, we view the skies as being blue in color.

Why are sunsets red?

Meanwhile, the light that is not scattered is able to pass through our atmosphere and reach our
eyes in a rather non-interrupted path. The lower frequencies of sunlight (ROY) tend to reach our
eyes as we sight directly at the sun during midday. While sunlight consists of the entire range of
frequencies of visible light, not all frequencies are equally intense. In fact, sunlight tends to be
most rich with yellow light frequencies. For these reasons, the sun appears yellow during midday
due to the direct passage of dominant amounts of yellow frequencies through our atmosphere and
to our eyes.


Maxwell's Equations: Maxwell's most important scientific contribution was to the field
of electricity and magnetism: a set of differential equations which are now known
as Maxwell's equations, and describe the properties of electric and magnetic fields and
their interactions with matter. Maxwell used his equations to show that electric and
magnetic fields are two complementary components of electromagnetic fields. He also
showed that electric and magnetic fields travel through empty space, in the form of
waves, at a constant velocity of 3.0 108 m/s (which predicted the speed of light c) and
also proposed that light was a form of electromagnetic radiation.

About 150 years ago, James Clerk

Maxwell, an English scientist, developed
a scientific theory to explain
electromagnetic waves. He noticed that
electrical fields and magnetic fields can
couple together to form electromagnetic
waves. Neither an electrical field (like the
static which forms when you rub your
feet on a carpet), nor a magnetic field
(like the one that holds a magnet onto
your refrigerator) will go anywhere by
themselves. But, Maxwell discovered
that a CHANGING magnetic field will
induce a CHANGING electric field and

An electromagnetic wave exists when the changing magnetic field causes a changing
electric field, which then causes another changing magnetic field, and so on forever.
Unlike a STATIC field, a wave cannot exist unless it is moving. Once created, an
electromagnetic wave will continue on forever unless it is absorbed by matter.