Radio waves

Radio waves

Radio waves are electromagnetic waves occurring on the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. A common use is to transport information through the atmosphere or outer space without wires. Radio waves are distinguished from other kinds of electromagnetic waves by their wavelength, a relatively long wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum.


Propagation is a term that describes the travel of electromagnetic waves, there being three main modes of propagation. The first is a straight line travel: the manner in which radio waves travel through deep space (ignoring the slight deviations caused by gravity under the theory of relativity). A second way is skip, which involves such waves bouncing between the surface of the earth and the ionosphere. Frequencies between 3 MHz and 30 MHz are most reliable for this kind of propagation, called High Frequency (see image at right). The third way is to hug the surface of the earth as it curves around. Radio waves of very low frequency most often travel this way.

Radio signals can also enter two ionospheric layers of differing electron densities and duct between them. The image at the right illustrates this. Two radio signals of differing elevation angles are broadcast into the ionosphere, where they split into ordinary (red) and extraordinary (green) components. In this example, the ordinary component began ducting between the E and F ionospheric regions.

Although this mode of radio wave propagation is less common than the skip mode, it is nonetheless an important mode because it permits radio signals to travel significant distances with little attenuation.

Discovery and utilization

Radio waves were first predicted by mathematical work done in 1865 by James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell noticed wave-like properties of light and similarities in electrical and magnetic observations and proposed equations that described light waves and radio waves as waves of electromagnetism that travel in space. In 1887 Heinrich Hertz demonstrated the reality of Maxwell's electromagnetic waves by experimentally generating radio waves in his laboratory. Many inventions followed, making practical use of radio waves to transfer information through space.

Nikola Tesla, Jagadish Chandra Bose and Guglielmo Marconi are credited with inventing systems to allow radio waves to be used for communication.

Radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum

Radio waves are divided up into bands by frequency (and corresponding wavelength) as shown in the radio frequency spectrum table below.

Waveguide frequency bands


*ITU-R Recommendation V.431: [ Nomenclature of the frequency and wavelength bands used in telecommunications] . International Telecommunication Union, Geneva.

*IEEE Standard 521-2002: Standard Letter Designations for Radar-Frequency Bands

*AFR 55-44/AR 105-86/OPNAVINST 3430.9A/MCO 3430.1, 27 October 1964 superseded by AFR 55-44/AR 105-86/OPNAVINST 3430.1A/MCO 3430.1A, 6 December 1978: Performing Electronic Countermeasures in the United States and Canada, Attachment 1,ECM Frequency Authorizations.

See also

*Radio propagation
*Frequency allocation
*Radio astronomy
*Radio electronics


*PBS, Tesla - [ Who Invented Radio?]
*James Clerk Maxwell, "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field", "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London" 155, 459-512 (1865).
*Heinrich Hertz: [ "Electric waves; being researches on the propagation of electric action with finite velocity through space"] (1893). Cornell University Library Historical Monographs Collection. [ Reprinted by] Cornell University Library Digital Collections

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Radio Waves — may refer to several things:* Radio Frequency, ie, radio waves of the Electromagnetic spectrum * Radio Waves (Project), a not for profit project allowing British schools to set up a webspace including blogs, videos and audio articles accessible… …   Wikipedia

  • radio waves — radijo bangos statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. broadcast waves; radio waves vok. Funkwellen, f; Radiowellen, f rus. радиоволны, f pranc. ondes hertziennes, f; ondes radio, f; ondes radio électriques, f …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • radio waves — electromagnetic waves which transmit sounds or signals through space without wires to a receiving set …   English contemporary dictionary

  • radio waves — electromagnetic radiation of wavelength between 10−1 and 106 cm and frequency of about 1011 to 104 hertz …   Medical dictionary

  • Radio propagation — is a term used to explain how radio waves behave when they are transmitted, or are propagated from one point on the Earth to another. [ H. P. Westman et al, (ed), Reference Data for Radio Engineers, Fifth Edition , 1968, Howard W. Sams and Co.,… …   Wikipedia

  • Radio — is the transmission of signals, by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light.Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of… …   Wikipedia

  • Radio astronomy — is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The field originated from the discovery that many astronomical objects emit radiation in the radio wavelengths as well as optical ones. The great advances in radio… …   Wikipedia

  • Radio-frequency identification — (RFID) is a technology that uses radio waves to transfer data from an electronic tag, called RFID tag or label, attached to an object, through a reader for the purpose of identifying and tracking the object. Some RFID tags can be read from… …   Wikipedia

  • Radio K.A.O.S. — Radio K.A.O.S. Album par Roger Waters Sortie 15 juin 1987 Enregistrement octobre décembre 1986 Durée 41:24 Genre Rock P …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Radio KAOS — Radio K.A.O.S. Radio K.A.O.S. Album par Roger Waters Sortie 15 juin 1987 Enregistrement octobre décembre 1986 Durée 41:24 Genre(s) Rock Pr …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.