Electromagnetic Wave Technologies

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Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2018
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Experiment activity
Length: 578 words
Content Level: (Level 3)

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Electromagnetic Wave Technologies


Electromagnetic (EM) wave technologies make possible many of today's most popular forms of technology. The entertainment, communication, and medical industries all rely heavily on EM waves. Every time you make a call on your smartphone or use its mapping application, you're making EM radiation work for you.

Examples of EM wave technology include wireless Internet, cell phone communication, radio, television, GPS, Page 122  |  Top of ArticleDoppler weather radar, and computerized tomography (CT) scans. Different technologies use different types of EM waves, such as radio waves, microwaves, infrared rays, visible light, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, or gamma rays. For example, CT scans employ X-ray radiation, whereas Doppler radar employs radio waves.

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Think About It!

To work properly, different communications technologies must use different EM frequencies. If every radio station or cell phone provider used the same frequencies, the signals might interfere with each other. To prevent interference, companies may pay for exclusive use of certain frequencies. What AM or FM radio station do you listen to most frequently? Did you know the channel number corresponds to the EM wavelength the station uses? For example, 1050 AM broadcasts at 1,050 kilohertz.

Parts of a Wave The amplitude of an FM wave is a measurement of the intensity of the magnetic or electric fields that make up the wave. Its wavelength is the distance between two peaks of a wave. Parts of a Wave The amplitude of an FM wave is a measurement of the intensity of the magnetic or electric fields that make up the wave. Its wavelength is the distance between two peaks of a wave. © 2018 CENGAGE®. © 2018 CENGAGE®.

Natural EM waves are all around us. One example is sunlight. Some types of EM waves, such as gamma rays, can even travel through us. Each EM wave has a different frequency. For example, a radio wave is long and has a low frequency, while a gamma ray is short and has a high frequency. Technological advancements have allowed humans to harness the power of these waves for our own purposes.

Working in a small team of two to three people, you will research how one type of modern EM spectrum technology works. Then you will communicate your findings by creating a poster.

Suggested Materials

  • Images from magazines or printed from the Internet
  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Markers

Approximate Budget



3–6 days

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Doppler radar uses EM waves to help forecast the weather. Doppler radar uses EM waves to help forecast the weather. © MORENO SOPPELSA/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM. © MORENO SOPPELSA/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM.

The Challenge

Your challenge is to create a poster that shows how one type of modern EM spectrum technology works.

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Electromagnetic radiation:
A form of energy that travels through waves of various lengths, such as light or heat.
Electromagnetic (EM) spectrum:
The range of frequencies or wavelengths that electromagnetic radiation can travel over. X-rays and ultraviolet light have very short wavelengths. Radio waves and microwaves have longer wavelengths.
The number of wave cycles during a given period.
Shortwave radiation:
Electromagnetic radiation that has a frequency greater than or equal to visible light.
The length of one wave cycle.

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If you're unsure how to begin your research online, talk with a science teacher or a librarian. A good rule of thumb is to begin your research with a search engine such as Google. Try searching for “electromagnetic wave technologies” and see what results come up. Avoid sites that may be inaccurate, such as Wikipedia.

  1. Select one modern EM spectrum technology, such as GPS, Wi-Fi, or CT scans. Use at least three reliable sources of information to research your chosen technology. Reliable resources include library books and websites with URLs ending in .edu, .org, or .gov.
  2. As you conduct your research, be sure to answer the following questions:
    • What is your technology?
    • Which wave from the EM spectrum is used in your technology?
    • What is the frequency and wavelength (or range) of the specific EM wave?
    • How does the technology work?
    • How is the technology used?
  3. Once you have completed your research, design a poster that Page 125  |  Top of Articlecommunicates what you've learned. The poster should answer the five basic research questions outlined above. In addition, it should include
    • the title “How Does [insert the name of your EM technology] Work?”
    • a list of team members' full names
    • relevant images or diagrams that describe how the technology works
    • a bibliography on the back that includes at least three reliable sources in MLA format. You can find more information about formatting a bibliography at the MLA Style Center ( https://style.mla.org/works-cited-a-quick-guide ).

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Different countries assign different parts of the radio spectrum to specific uses. For a list of radio frequency assignments in the United States, visit https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/scan/spectrum/txt_accordion3.html .


A successful poster will answer all the research questions and provide accurate information that is relevant to the topic and appropriate to your audience. The poster should have an appropriate title, follow a logical order, use an easy-to-follow layout, and incorporate visuals that are related to your topic. Your research should be written in your own words.

See Appendix for related poster rubric .


Make a wiki page that incorporates the main ideas from your presentation. The page should inform readers about what your technology is and how it works. Make sure to include visuals, relevant links, and a list of sources at the bottom of the page.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3679900034