How Do Waves Carry Energy?

waves-carry-energy Credit: Tim Sheerman-Chase/CC-BY 2.0

According to, waves carry energy through their up and down movements. The regular movements of the waves are able to carry two different types of energy: mechanical and electromagnetic. Some of these types of waves require certain types of environments and substances to travel through in order to move energy from one location to another.

Waves can be defined simply as disturbances with a capacity for energy transfer. Usually, this energy transfer occurs over some type of material that the waves can travel through. These materials are often gaseous or liquids. For example, many waves carry mechanical energy through the ocean because they are able to spread their movements and disturbances through the water easily. However, not all waves require these materials. Some rare waves, called electromagnetic waves, can travel without a medium. Energy is transferred from the sun to the earth through electromagnetic waves without the need for any medium to facilitate the process.

Because one of the ways energy can be stored and expended is in movement, waves carry a lot of energy with them as they move up and down and travel forward. This means that the energy can be utilized in a number of different ways. For example, water turbines catch the mechanical energy of the movement of waves and can transfer them into a rotary motion to power generators.