The Basics of the Electromagnetic Spectrum


Before we get into the details of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum, let’s talk a bit about EM radiation. It can be in the form of radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, gamma rays, ultraviolet rays, infrared waves and visible waves. The range of all these electromagnetic radiations is known as the EM spectrum. As far as the behavior of these radiations is concerned, it depends on the frequencies. Higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths and lower frequencies have longer wavelengths. At either end of the spectrum, these frequencies or energies have no limit.

The electromagnetic spectrum is the complete range of all wavelengths and frequencies. It starts from a very low level of energy with longer wavelengths and low frequencies and has the potential to turn into a very high level of energy when it consists of shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies. Each of the different types of radiations (X-rays, UV, Infrared, Radio, etc.) occupies a definite place in the spectrum, but their divisions are not very definite.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

The wave frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum range from approximately 100 Hz to more than 1024 Hz. Wavelength starts from about 108 meters to less than 10−16 centimeters. Some infrared wavelengths can be seen using a telescope. The wavelengths of radio frequencies, visible light and some ultraviolet light can make it to sea level. But most of the electromagnetic radiation cannot reach the earth’s atmosphere from space. However, some electromagnetic radiation, such as that emitted by electrical devices, require shielding because they can affect the performance of electronics. This is also known as ‘noise’, and it interferes with the functions of other nearby electrical devices.

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