# Do waves need a medium to travel?

## Do waves need a medium to travel?

These changing fields form electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves differ from mechanical waves in that they do not require a medium to propagate. This means that electromagnetic waves can travel not only through air and solid materials, but also through the vacuum of space.

## Why does a wave need a medium?

Mechanical waves need a medium to carry their energy from one place to another. A sound wave is an example of a mechanical wave. Sound waves cannot travel in a vacuum.

What does a wave need to travel?

Some waves need a medium to travel. Some waves need a medium to travel, some don’t. Waves such as water must transfer energy through a medium; they are called mechanical waves. Waves such as sunlight can transfer energy through empty space and need no support; they are called electromagnetic waves.

What are the mediums crossed by the waves?

Mechanical wave energy can only travel through matter. The matter through which the wave travels is called the medium (plural, media). The medium in the water wave pictured above is water, a liquid. But the medium of a mechanical wave can be any state of matter, even a solid.

Why do mechanical waves need a way to travel?

Mechanical waves are waves that require a medium. This means they must have some kind of matter to pass through. These waves propagate when molecules in the medium collide with each other transmitting energy.

Why doesn’t light need a medium to move?

No light needs support to travel. It is an electromagnetic (EM) wave. All EM waves travel independently of the medium. In contrast, mechanical waves need a medium, sound waves, shock waves are mechanical and they need a medium to transfer energy or move. Why can light travel with or without a medium?

#### Why do sound waves have to be a medium?

Because they are mechanical waves. Sound wave is a traveling wave that transfers energy between two points. To do this, the particles on the wave will vibrate back and forth, collide with each other, and transmit the energy. (Keep in mind that the particles themselves don’t change their overall position, they just transmit energy by vibrating.)

#### Do you need a medium to carry the sound?

Electromagnetic waves do not need a medium to carry their energy. Mechanical waves are waves that require a medium to transport their energy from one place to another. Sound is a mechanical wave and cannot travel in a vacuum.

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