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33.14: Standing Waves in a Cavity

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Standing Waves in a Cavity

33.14: Standing Waves in a Cavity

A household microwave and lasers are examples of standing electromagnetic waves in a cavity. When two conducting metal plates are placed parallel at the nodal planes, it creates a cavity where standing waves are formed. The cavity between the two planes is analogous to a stretched string held at the points x = 0 and x = L. Here, the distance 'L' between the two planes must be an integer multiple of half of the wavelength. The wavelengths that satisfy this condition are given by:


The corresponding frequencies are:


Each characteristic frequency, wave shape, and node pattern constitutes a set of normal modes. The wavelength can be estimated by measuring the node positions, and if the frequency is known, the wave speed can also be determined.

Apart from conducting surfaces, the reflection of electromagnetic waves can also occur at an interface between two insulating materials with different dielectric or magnetic properties. The mechanical analog is a junction of two strings with equal tension but different linear mass density. Typically, a wave incident on such a boundary surface is partly transmitted into the second material and partly reflected back into the first. For instance, light is transmitted through a glass window, but its surfaces also reflect the light.

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