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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Express the time-averaged energy density of electromagnetic waves in terms of their electric and magnetic field amplitudes
  • Calculate the Poynting vector and the energy intensity of electromagnetic waves
  • Explain how the energy of an electromagnetic wave depends on its amplitude, whereas the energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency

Anyone who has used a microwave oven knows there is energy in electromagnetic waves. Sometimes this energy is obvious, such as in the warmth of the summer Sun. Other times, it is subtle, such as the unfelt energy of gamma rays, which can destroy living cells.

Electromagnetic waves bring energy into a system by virtue of their electric and magnetic fields. These fields can exert forces and move charges in the system and, thus, do work on them. However, there is energy in an electromagnetic wave itself, whether it is absorbed or not. Once created, the fields carry energy away from a source. If some energy is later absorbed, the field strengths are diminished and anything left travels on.

Clearly, the larger the strength of the electric and magnetic fields, the more work they can do and the greater the energy the electromagnetic wave carries. In electromagnetic waves, the amplitude is the maximum field strength of the electric and magnetic fields ( [link] ). The wave energy is determined by the wave amplitude.

Figure on the left shows an electromagnetic wave with electric field E and magnetic field B. It is labeled u. Figure on the right shows an electromagnetic wave with electric field 2E and magnetic field 2B. Here, the amplitudes of the sine waves are doubled. The wave is labeled 4u.
Energy carried by a wave depends on its amplitude. With electromagnetic waves, doubling the E fields and B fields quadruples the energy density u and the energy flux uc .

For a plane wave traveling in the direction of the positive x -axis with the phase of the wave chosen so that the wave maximum is at the origin at t = 0 , the electric and magnetic fields obey the equations

E y ( x , t ) = E 0 cos ( k x ω t ) B z ( x , t ) = B 0 cos ( k x ω t ) .

The energy in any part of the electromagnetic wave is the sum of the energies of the electric and magnetic fields. This energy per unit volume, or energy density     u , is the sum of the energy density from the electric field and the energy density from the magnetic field. Expressions for both field energy densities were discussed earlier ( u E in Capacitance and u B in Inductance ). Combining these the contributions, we obtain

u ( x , t ) = u E + u B = 1 2 ε 0 E 2 + 1 2 μ 0 B 2 .

The expression E = c B = 1 ε 0 μ 0 B then shows that the magnetic energy density u B and electric energy density u E are equal, despite the fact that changing electric fields generally produce only small magnetic fields. The equality of the electric and magnetic energy densities leads to

u ( x , t ) = ε 0 E 2 = B 2 μ 0 .

The energy density moves with the electric and magnetic fields in a similar manner to the waves themselves.

We can find the rate of transport of energy by considering a small time interval Δ t . As shown in [link] , the energy contained in a cylinder of length c Δ t and cross-sectional area A passes through the cross-sectional plane in the interval Δ t .

Figure shows a cylinder of length c delta t and cross sectional area A. Arrows indicate the direction of a wave to be along the length of the cylinder. A plane is shown perpendicular to the direction of wave.
The energy u A c Δ t contained in the electric and magnetic fields of the electromagnetic wave in the volume A c Δ t passes through the area A in time Δ t .

Questions & Answers

Is it possible to find the magnetic field of a circular loop at the centre by using ampere's law?
Rb Reply
Is it possible to find the magnetic field of a circular loop at it's centre?
Rb Reply
yes
Brother
The density of a gas of relative molecular mass 28 at a certain temperature is 0.90 K kgmcube.The root mean square speed of the gas molecules at that temperature is 602ms.Assuming that the rate of diffusion of a gas in inversely proportional to the square root of its density,calculate the density of
Gifty Reply
A hot liquid at 80degree Celsius is added to 600g of the same liquid originally at 10 degree Celsius. when the mixture reaches 30 degree Celsius, what will be the total mass of the liquid?
Gifty
what is electrostatics
Yakub Reply
Study of charges which are at rest
himanshu
Explain Kinematics
Glory Reply
Two equal positive charges are repelling each other. The force on the charge on the left is 3.0 Newtons. Using your notes on Coulomb's law, and the forces acting on each of the charges, what is the force on the charge on the right?
Nya Reply
Using the same two positive charges, the left positive charge is increased so that its charge is 4 times LARGER than the charge on the right. Using your notes on Coulomb's law and changes to the charge, once the charge is increased, what is the new force of repulsion between the two positive charges?
Nya
A mass 'm' is attached to a spring oscillates every 5 second. If the mass is increased by a 5 kg, the period increases by 3 second. Find its initial mass 'm'
Md Reply
a hot water tank containing 50,000g of water is heated by an electric immersion heater rated at 3kilowatt,240volt, calculate the current
Samuel Reply
what is charge
Aamir Reply
product of current and time
Jaffar
Why always amber gain electrons and fur loose electrons? Why the opposite doesn't happen?
Mohammed Reply
A closely wound search coil has an area of 4cm^2,1000 turns and a resistance of 40ohm. It is connected to a ballistic galvanometer whose resistance is 24 ohm. When coil is rotated from a position parallel to uniform magnetic field to one perpendicular to field,the galvanometer indicates a charge
Palak Reply
Using Kirchhoff's rules, when choosing your loops, can you choose a loop that doesn't have a voltage?
Michael Reply
how was the check your understand 12.7 solved?
Bysteria Reply
Who is ISSAAC NEWTON
LOAK Reply
he's the father of 3 newton law
Hawi
he is Chris Issaac's father :)
Ethem
how to name covalent bond
Bryan Reply
Who is ALEXANDER BELL
LOAK
Practice Key Terms 1

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 2. OpenStax CNX. Oct 06, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12074/1.3
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