What is a Traveling Wave? Check out the Characteristics and Full Explanation!

Traveling Waves – Has Sinaumed’s ever casually thrown rocks into a pond or river? After being thrown with a stone, what happens to the water level of the pond or river? Did Sinaumed’s see any small circles forming where the rock fell?

If so, try to pay more attention, later the small circles will widen to move away from the center point. Even if Sinaumed’s throws a leaf above the surface of the water, the circles can actually move the leaf up and down.

Well, that’s a description of the existence of waves that propagate on the surface of the water though. The discussion of these waves is included in the study of Physics which divides them into several types based on the medium, direction of propagation, and amplitude. In this type of wave based on its amplitude, it can be divided into 2 namely traveling waves and stationary waves. So, what is a traveling wave? What are the formulas and examples of questions regarding these types of waves according to the study of Physics? Come on, look at the following reviews so that Sinaumed’s understands these things!

What is a Wave?

Before discussing traveling waves, Sinaumed’s must first understand what a wave is in the study of Physics. Basically, waves are vibrations that propagate either through a medium or not through a medium. If the vibrations of the wave propagate through the medium, then the wave will be transverse and longitudinal, while if it does not pass through the medium, it will be electromagnetic. Waves will later propagate vibrations without moving the particles, so the particles will only move around the balance point.

Types of Waves

The existence of this wave can be divided into several types, namely:

Based on Medium

  1. Mechanical Waves , namely waves that require a medium to propagate its vibrations. Example: ocean waves, sound waves, and others.
  2. Electromagnetic waves , namely waves that do not need a medium to propagate their vibrations. Example: light waves.

Based on the Direction of Propagation

  1. Transverse waves , namely waves that are perpendicular to the direction of propagation. Example: light waves.
  2. Longitudinal waves , namely waves that are in the same direction as the direction of propagation. Examples: surface waves, sound waves, spring waves, and others.

Based on the Amplitude (Farthest Deviation Distance)

  1. Traveling Waves , namely waves that have a fixed amplitude.
  2. Stationary waves (silent) , namely waves that have a changing amplitude.

 What is a Traveling Wave?

After understanding the definition of waves and their types according to physics studies, Sinaumed’s will then learn about what a traveling wave is.

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As previously explained, a traveling wave is a type of wave based on its amplitude, that is, a wave that has a fixed amplitude (farthest distance). That is, every point through which the wave will vibrate harmonicly with the same amplitude. A simple example of applying this traveling wave is when Sinaumed’s plays with a vibrating rope, aka battle ropes . On a string that is continuously vibrated, the amplitude will always be the same.

Since this traveling wave material is included in the study of Physics, then of course it will have an equation in the form of a formula, namely:

The Equation of Deviations in the Traveling Wave

When Sinaumed’s is playing with a rope or is exercising battle ropes , surely the longer the vibrating rope will form a traveling wave. The wave will propagate from point 0 as the center of the coordinates, towards the positive x-axis direction, so it will look like the following figure.

In the figure, it can be seen that point 0 has vibrated periodically for t (time) seconds. Therefore, the wave deviation at point 0 will also meet the harmonic vibration deviation, which is written in the form of the formula:


y = wave displacement or vibration deviation of the point through which it passes (m)

A = amplitude or farthest deviation distance (m)

ω = angular velocity (rad s-1)

ω   = 2πf, where f is the vibration frequency (Hz)

t = the length of time point 0 has vibrated (s)

If Sinaumed’s pays attention once again, ω =2πf so that it can also be written in the form, then the equation can also be written in the formula form

Then, what if Sinaumed’s wants to find the wave phase? Of course there is a separate formula, namely:

So it can be concluded that the deviation equation on the traveling wave is:

Through this formula, it can be concluded with the sign in front of the Amplitude A and the number k, namely to be

+𝐴 means the initial upward deviation of the wave

– 𝐴 means the initial deviation of the wave downward

− 𝑘 means the wave propagates to the right

+ 𝑘 means the wave propagates to the left

Velocity Equation On Traveling Waves

In a traveling wave, the velocity equation can be derived from the displacement equation described earlier. Mathematically, the speed equation found in a traveling wave is:


v = wave speed (m/s)

y = wave deviation (m)

The Equation of Acceleration on a Traveling Wave

So, what about the acceleration equation on a traveling wave? Of course it will be derived from the deviation equation or the velocity equation. Mathematically, the acceleration equation found in this traveling wave can be formulated as follows.


a = wave acceleration (m/s2)

v = wave speed (m/s)

y = wave deviation (m)

The properties of a traveling wave

Reporting from around knowledge , traveling waves have certain properties, namely.

1. Diffraction (Deflected)

The traveling wave will certainly be diffraction in the form of deflection of the wave when it passes through a certain gap. This deflection will be more clearly seen if the middle wave passes through a narrower gap.

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2. Refraction (Refraction)

Refraction, aka refraction, is when there is a shift in the direction of wave propagation which is caused because the medium through which it passes has a different density. This can occur in traveling waves.

3. Polarization (Absorbed Vibration Direction)

Polarization is when there is absorption of the wave vibration direction when it is passing through a certain medium. In traveling waves in the form of sound, this property will usually occur when passing through a flexible medium such as foam or sponge.

4. Reflection (Reflected)

Reflection that occurs in traveling waves can be in the form of reversing the direction of wave propagation. This is due to a collision with a medium which turns out to be impenetrable by the wave itself.

5. Interference (Combined)

Wave interference or merging can occur in traveling waves. If there are 2 waves that are combined and have the same phase, then both will get amplification. For example: a rope wave that has the same phase, the amplitude will be even greater.

6. Dispersion (Shape Change)

Dispersion can occur in the form of changes in waveforms, especially when passing through a particular medium.

The Difference between Running Waves and Stationary Waves

Many people cannot distinguish between traveling waves and stationary waves (standing waves). Although both are included in the type of wave with the amplitude category, the definitions and explanations between the two are also different. Well, here’s the difference.

No. Walking Wave Stationary Wave
1. It has the same amplitude (farthest deviation distance) and phase, especially at every point it passes. Has variable amplitude (farthest deviation distance) and phase.
2. An example is a wave that propagates on a long string. An example is the wave on the strings of a guitar instrument.
3. Have a deviation equation. Has a knot and belly section on the waves.
4. There is only one type, namely the traveling wave itself. It can be divided into 2 types, namely fixed end stationary waves and free end stationary waves.
5. Can spread to the right and self with different equations. Frequency and amplitude meet in opposite directions.

Well, that’s a review of what a traveling wave is along with the equation formula, its properties, and the difference between it and a stationary wave. Can Sinaumed’s name any other examples?



Class XI Physics Module. Traveling and Stationary Waves .

Physics Teaching Materials for Class XI Semester II High School: RUNNING WAVES AND STATIONARY WAVES . Padang 9 Public High School.

Sujoko. (2020). High School Physics Learning Module: Walking Waves & Stationary Waves . Ministry of Education and Culture. https://repositori.kemdikbud.go.id/

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