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The electromagnetic spectrum of radiation

Analytical and Commercial bandwidths

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The EM Spectrum of Radiation, Bandwidths, Wavelenghts and Frequencies

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The spectrum is divided up into bandwidths, wavelenghts, and frequencies: their measuring units and commercial applications.
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Waves of increasing frequency
Bands of the electromagnetic spectrum

All of these waves are electric and magnetic forces - forces which vary with time in direction and intensity. All have speed 186,000 miles per second = c = speed of light ! They move through vacuum,and do not need a ' carrier'. Speed decreases after entering materials.(1)
Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Other forms of electromagnetic radiation include radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and gamma rays. All of these, known collectively as the electromagnetic spectrum, are fundamentally similar in that they move at 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light. The only difference between them is their wavelength, which is directly related to the amount of energy the waves carry. The shorter the wavelength of the radiation, the higher the energy.

The rainbow of colors that we see in visible light represents only a very small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are radio waves with wavelengths billions of times longer than those of visible light. On the other end of the spectrum are gamma rays. These have wavelengths millions of times smaller than those of visible light. The following are the basic categories of the electromagnetic spectrum, from longest to shortest wavelength:

Radio waves are used to transmit radio and television signals. Radio waves have wavelengths that range from less than a centimeter to tens or even hundreds of meters. FM radio waves are shorter than AM radio waves. For example, an FM radio station at 100 on the radio dial (100 megahertz) would have a wavelength of about three meters. An AM station at 750 on the dial (750 kilohertz) uses a wavelength of about 400 meters. Radio waves can also be used to create images. Radio waves with wavelengths of a few centimeters can be transmitted from a satellite or airplane antenna. The reflected waves can be used to form an image of the ground in complete darkness or through clouds.

Microwave wavelengths range from approximately one millimeter (the thickness of a pencil lead) to thirty centimeters (about twelve inches). In a microwave oven, the radio waves generated are tuned to frequencies that can be absorbed by the food. The food absorbs the energy and gets warmer. The dish holding the food doesn't absorb a significant amount of energy and stays much cooler. Microwaves are emitted from the Earth, from objects such as cars and planes, and from the atmosphere. These microwaves can be detected to give information, such as the temperature of the object that emitted the microwaves

Infrared is the region of the electromagnetic spectrum that extends from the visible region to about one millimeter (in wavelength). Infrared waves include thermal radiation. For example, burning charcoal may not give off light, but it does emit infrared radiation which is felt as heat. Infrared radiation can be measured using electronic detectors and has applications in medicine and in finding heat leaks from houses. Infrared images obtained by sensors in satellites and airplanes can yield important information on the health of crops and can help us see forest fires even when they are enveloped in an opaque curtain of smoke.

The rainbow of colors we know as visible light is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths between 400 and 700 billionths of a meter (400 to 700 nanometers). It is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we see, and coincides with the wavelength of greatest intensity of sunlight. Visible waves have great utility for the remote sensing of vegetation and for the identification of different objects by their visible colors.

Ultraviolet radiation has a range of wavelengths from 400 billionths of a meter to about 10 billionths of a meter. Sunlight contains ultraviolet waves which can burn your skin. Most of these are blocked by ozone in the Earth's upper atmosphere. A small dose of ultraviolet radiation is beneficial to humans, but larger doses cause skin cancer and cataracts. Ultraviolet wavelengths are used extensively in astronomical observatories. Some remote sensing observations of the Earth are also concerned with the measurement of ozone.

X-rays are high energy waves which have great penetrating power and are used extensively in medical applications and in inspecting welds. X-ray images of our Sun can yield important clues to solar flares and other changes on our Sun that can affect space weather. The wavelength range is from about ten billionths of a meter to about 10 trillionths of a meter.

Gamma rays have wavelengths of less than about ten trillionths of a meter. They are more penetrating than X-rays. Gamma rays are generated by radioactive atoms and in nuclear explosions, and are used in many medical applications. Images of our universe taken in gamma rays have yielded important information on the life and death of stars, and other violent processes in the universe.

Cosmic Rays

Despite their name, cosmic rays are not a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Instead of radiation, cosmic rays are high-energy charged particles that travel through space at nearly the speed of light. Their extremely high energies are comparable to those of gamma rays at the upper end of the electromagnetic spectrum. The highest-energy cosmic rays originate outside our galaxy and provide information on distant objects such as quasars. Cosmic rays are detected when they hit the upper atmosphere, creating showers of particles in their interaction with atoms. These secondary particles can then be detected by instruments on the ground.

Waves of increasing Frequency

ELF WAVES frequency is 60 Hz, as their sources are any alternating current, especially strong near high voltage transmission lines .
RADIOWAVES AM frequency given by stations: 550 – 1600 kHz (= 1.6 MHz) FM frequency given by stations: 88 – 108 MHz AM = amplitude modulated , FM = frequency modulated
TV WAVES TV stations use higher fr – waves to get better resolution = reception. 54 – 806 MHz , many channels
MICROWAVES CELLULAR PHONE WAVES: frequency – 880 MHz =0.88 GHz , 'cell ' is the area covered by the antenna( receiving or sending) of company - therefore 'hand-off' . MICROWAVE OVEN – heat water ( in food ) ; 2.45 GHz = 2,450 MHz RADAR: used ( in conjunction with the Doppler Effect ) in ‘speed traps’ by police, in missiles to find airplanes, tanks, etc.; used by airports to guide airplanes, most 1 – 100 GHz ( G = giga )
INFRARED Just below visible red, also called heat radiation . With special cameras used to find heat losses from houses; by army to detect heat radiation from engines, people.
VISIBLE LIGHT RED, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, VIOLET - no white or black !!! White is the sensation for our brain when primary colors ( red, blue and green) fall onto the retina at the same time . Black is the absence of any light .
ULTRAVIOLET ALPHA- UV is energetic enough to cuase chemical reaction BETA UV causes damage to cell structure (tanning) and can cause genetic damage to cell DNA => possible cancer .
X-RAYS SOFT - X rays = lower fr – range; used for taking x-ray pictures HARD - X - rays = higher fr –range; used in cancer treatments to kill cancer cells.
GAMMA RAYS Frequency range overlaps with hard X-rays, gamma rays originate though in the nucleus of atoms, not by electron – jumps between energy levels as frequencies higher than infraded do .
COSMIC RAYS Very high frequency, comes from sun, outer space = universe to us.

The Bands of the Electromegnetic

Band Wavelength Frequency
MF medium frequency   300-3000 kHz
HF high frequency   3-30 MHz
20 cm - 20 m
2.5-3.5 m
20 cm - 2.5 m
15 MHz - 1.5 GHz
85-120 MHz
120 MHz - 1.5 GHz
Microwave 0.01-20 cm 1.5-3000 GHz
EHF extremely high frequency   30-300 GHz
Far Infrared 20,000-100,000 nm 3000-15000 GHz
Near Infrared 700-20,000 nm 15000-430,000 GHz
400-700 nm
620-760 nm
570-620 nm
550-570 nm
470-550 nm
440-470 nm
380-440 nm
430,000-750,000 GHz
Ultraviolet Ultraviolet  
Soft XRay 1-20 nm  
Hard XRay 0.1-1 nm  
Gamma ray    

Reference:(1) ""

Signature: Dhanlal De Lloyd, Chem. Dept, The University of The West Indies, St. Augustine campus
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Copyright: delloyd2000© All rights reserved.