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Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

Faster Than a Speeding Wave

What is the electromagnetic spectrum?

The electromagnetic spectrum describes the entire range of frequencies (or wavelengths) possible for electromagnetic radiation to have. In principle, the spectrum is practically infinite, though there are limitations on how high or low of frequencies we can practically achieve and work with. On the high end of the frequency spectrum are usually gamma rays, with frequencies of around 1020 Hz, while on the low end are “extremely low frequencies” of only a few Hz.

Type Frequency (Hz) Wavelength (cm)
Radio < 3="" ×="">11 > 10
Microwave 3 × 1011 – 1013 10 – 0.01
Infrared 1013 – 4 × 1014 0.01 – 7 × 10−5
Visible 4 – 7.5 × 1014 7 × 10−5 – 4 × 10−5
Ultraviolet 1015 – 1017 4 × 10−5 – 10−7
X-rays 1017 – 1020 10−7 –10−9
Gamma Rays 1020 – 1024 <>−9


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