by Ron Kurtus
A pulse wave is a special non-periodic waveform that typically has one major crest. In some cases, when it is accompanied by several minor sub-harmonic crests, where it is called a wave packet.
A pulse wave is often associated with a single sudden motion, impact, or even explosion. It usually has a sinusoidal shape, but in electronics there are also square and rectangular pulse waves.
As with other waveforms, a pulse has a velocity and amplitude. Since there is primarily only one crest, there is no frequency or true wavelength, although the width of the pulse relates to wavelength.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the types of pulse waves?
- What is a wave packet?
- What is an example of a shock wave?
This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion
Types of pulse waves
As with regular waveforms, pulse waves can be compression or transverse.
Transverse pulse wave
An example of a simple crest pulse wave is seen at sporting events where groups of fans stand up and then sit down, creating the effect of a "wave" moving across the stadium. It is a transverse waveform.
Simple transverse pulse wave
Compression pulse wave
A compression or longitudinal pulse wave can be seen with a slinky toy.
Slinky pulse wave
Wave characteristics of a compression pulse wave
When the pulse wave has sub-harmonic crests, it is called a wave packet.
A drop of water into a pool creates the initial pulse wave, accompanied by a series of smaller wavelets.
Water drop creates wave packet
A special types of pulse wave is a shock wave. When an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound, it is preceded by a shock wave form of a pulse wave. The same is true with a bullet.
Bullet creates a shock wave in air
The noise from an explosion, as well as thunder, is also a form of shock wave.
A pulse wave is a special non-periodic waveform that typically has one major crest. When accompanied by several minor sub-harmonic crests, it is called a wave packet.
A pulse wave is often associated with a single sudden motion, impact, or even explosion.
Feel the pulse of any activity
Resources and references
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