When most people think of radio waves, their first thought is the music that comes streaming into their car. Radio stations miles away can transmit a signal through the air, and as we drive along we can listen to some of our favorite songs. While this may be one of the most common uses of radio waves, there are many others, some of which go unnoticed. Here are just 4 ways that radio waves are used for more than just music each day.
In the late 19th century it was discovered that radio waves reflected off metal objects. Years later, during World War II, this discovery would be put to use in detecting submarines and ships while out at sea. The Allies used this technology to fight back against the German U-boats that were wreaking havoc in the Atlantic Ocean. By transmitting radio waves from their ships, they were able to detect when enemies were nearby, providing them with an advantage. The rise of radar is considered one of the major factors in contributing to an Allied win.
Long Range Communication
While our cars can pick up radio signals from stations miles away, radio waves can actually transmit signals even further. Radio waves are used to communicate with outer space, sending signals that allow us to talk to astronauts stationed up there. These signals are also sent back from the astronauts, meaning we can keep in touch with people who are hundreds of miles away up in space.
Besides just sending messages, we can also use radio waves to see things in space as well. Since some things are not visible to our eye, radio telescopes allow us to see different objects in space. Much of what we know about outer space today is thanks in part to radio waves.
As a society, we have become much more reliant on using GPS navigation to get around. Rather than pulling out a paper map, or stopping off at a gas station for directions, most of us will pull out our phones and use its navigation features. GPS relies on radio waves to function, transmitting data from earth up to positional satellites. By contacting several different satellites, your phone or other GPS device is able to determine where you are, and provide you with directions. This is all made possible thanks to radio waves.
Lastly, we have quite a different use for radio waves. In a process known as RF Welding, radio waves are use to melt pieces of plastic and fuse them together. The wavelength of the radio signals break down the molecular structure of the plastic, and allow it to meld with other pieces. Using this process allows you to create a new, strong and permanent bond that is resistant to tearing. Many products are created through the use of RF welding, and some of them may even be lying around your home right now.
More Than Just Music
As you can see, radio waves are used for more than just playing music in your car. Radio waves have a wide range of very useful functions, some of which we could not go a day without using. They allow us to get around, communicate with outer space, and helped the Allies win a war. If we had not discovered all of the many uses for radio waves, our lives would be very different today.