Difference between Stationery and Progressive Waves

Difference between Stationary and Progressive Waves

A wave is defined as a disturbance that has propagating abilities via a medium without transferring the matter. In layman language, it’s the oscillation of disturbance that ends up becoming a wave. A pattern that is acquired with no particular flow is referred to as a wave. When signals are transmitted in a wave, then it is referred to as the base of communication.

There are two types of waves, namely stationary and progressive waves. They are categorized this way solely on the energy constituent of waves. When talking about the stationary wave, you will note that no massive energy transfer is seen as energy is trapped in a medium. In contrast, progressive energy is transferred in molecules to reach a particular point.

Stationery Vs. Progressive Waves

In stationary waves, the energy cannot be propagated onwards. This is because each particle has its own characteristics regarding vibration. Conversely, progressive wave energy is propagated onwards. This is the reason why energy can be transmitted from one point to another. It’s a somewhat transfer of vibrations in the molecules of a particle.

Since the energy in the stationery wave doesn’t propagate onwards, you’ll find that particles at the node areas are surely at rest while the rest of the particles rest for a short time. While in the progressive wave, particles are in continuous motion and don’t rest permanently. Additionally, there is the particular velocity of particles. At the mean position, the velocity becomes maximum in standing waves, while in progressive waves, velocity is the same throughout even at the mean position.

Motion in the stationery wave is not transferrable, whereas motion in progressive waves is transferrable in a forward direction. Energy is also trapped in a medium while energy is propagated through a medium. Stationery waves don’t partake in forwarding motion, while its crests and troughs blink at the beginning of the position. On the other hand, progressive waves are forward-moving. Therefore the blinks and troughs are also in motion.

In stationary waves, the amplitude of any particle is zero at the node and maximum at the antinode and therefore is different. Conversely, in a progressive wave, the amplitude of any particle is the same, but there are a lot of vibrations at the phase.

What are Stationary Waves?

A stationary wave, also known as a standing wave, refers to a static that remains within the boundaries of a medium and does not travel. Every particle withi9n a wave features different characteristic vibrations.

Therefore, all the particles within the wave vibrate in phase but parallel to the particles within the adjacent phase. These particles also attain maximum velocity when passing through the mean position.

Energy can also translocate back and forth; however, the average energy will remain zero.

Stationary waves exist in two types:

  • The longitudinal waves: with longitudinal waves, the wave will vibrate in the propagation direction. These particles, therefore, move in a parallel direction from the wave direction, which is simply the same direction. A good example is a sound created within an air column.
  • The transverse wave: Tranverse waves will vibrate in a right-angled direction of propagation. The waves, therefore, causes the particles to shift into a perpendicular direction from the energy transfer. An example of this is the Lightwave.

Uses of Stationary Waves:

  • Standing waves have a wider application within the music industry. They are used in the making of instruments like the piano, guitar, and flute, among others.
  • Stationary waves are mostly used in radio stations.
  • The wave is used in the process of making ropes for the circus.

What are Progressive Waves?

Progressive waves refer to waves that travel within a medium with a definite velocity. Therefore, each of the particles within the wave executes a similar vibration.

The amplitude of these particles remains the same while the phases change randomly. Additionally, the particles within the wave also attain maximum velocity once they pass the mean position.

Progressive waves feature a definite energy amount which they carry or transfer.

Progressive waves exist in two types including:

  • Longitudinal wave: longitudinal waves vibrate in the propagation direction. The particles also move parallel to a wave direction. Examples of longitudinal waves include sound waves.
  • Transverse waves: transverse waves vibrate in right angles to the direction of propagation. This way, the wave makes the particles move perpendicular to the energy transfer. Examples include Earthquakes and Lightwave.

Uses of Progressive Waves:

  • Used as a microwave in the micro-oven.
  • They are used in generating hydroelectric energy from the water waves.
  • Applied in mechanical waves, including liquid, solid, and gas.

Difference Between Stationary and Progressive Waves

  • Stationary waves do not travel within mediums. They remain still. Progressive waves move with mediums through different phases.
  • Stationary waves perform simple harmonic motions within varying amplitudes even though they are at rest. Progressive waves on the same perform simple harmonic motion in their mean positions.
  • A change in density and pressure is never uniform with a stationary wave, while the change in pressure and density is always uniform with a progressive wave.
  • Standing waves feature nodes and antinodes. Progressive waves on the same feature through and crests.
  • Stationary waves are created by intersections of the opposite waves, whereby medium disturbances create progressive waves.


Well! Know that you have a better understanding of the application and the characteristics of the two waves, you can easily ensure that the two terms link to physics, and they both feature clear definitions and concepts.

While these two waves are not that interesting to the common people, they have little or no significance to their daily lives.

However, they have vital importance to employees working within the musical industries, radio stations, and water generator supplies, among other industries that make use of mechanical waves.

The waves also bear a huge significance to geologists when it comes to understanding the vulnerability of incoming disasters like cyclones, earthquakes, and tsunamis. This helps in making sure they are able to address people and prepare beforehand easily.

Having this knowledge makes sure you get to use these terms wisely.

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