Sound and Oscillation

Reflection, refraction and diffraction of waves

Waves are disturbances generated in space that are only capable of transporting energy. Any of these types of wave phenomena can undergo reflection, diffraction or refraction.

All types of waves can undergo reflection, refraction and diffraction

Waves are movements caused in systems, which are caused by disturbances in the medium. A wave does not have the ability to transport matter, it can only transport energy .

Our daily life is full of phenomena and technologies that work through wave principles. Radio and satellite transmissions , Wi-Fi , microwaves , echolocation, etc., are some applications of the waves.

wave phenomena

Whatever the type of wave, it is subject to the phenomena of reflection , refraction and diffraction. The following are brief descriptions of these three phenomena:

  • Reflection : Reflection will occur whenever a wave reaches a certain surface and propagates again in the original medium. The reflected wave will keep the same speed, frequency and wavelength as the incident wave.
  • Refraction : Refraction occurs when the wave changes its propagation medium. Light from the Sun , for example, comes from the star through a vacuum and is refracted as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere . In refraction, the speed of propagation of the wave will be altered, because the change of medium generates a change in the wavelength. The frequency of the waves, as it depends on the generating source, is not altered in the refraction.

The interactive simulator below can help you study the reflection and refraction of waves. It shows the relationship between the angles of reflection and refraction, as well as the intensities of light rays after undergoing these phenomena.

  • Diffraction : Diffraction deals with the ability of waves to bypass obstacles.

Note that, when reaching the crack, the waves that propagated in the water went around the obstacle and reached the opposite side of it, however, with a rcular shape. The size of the slit in relation to the wavelength of the waves influences the occurrence of the phenomenon, so the longer the wavelength in relation to the slit, the more intense the diffraction.

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