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Can a microwave carry more energy than a gamma-ray wave?

  1. Jul 11, 2015 #1
    Speaking about single photons, the shorter the wavelength (or the higher the frequency) the more energy the wave carries.

    But for "real life EM waves", next to the frequency there is also the amplitude, the number of photons making the wave. Given 2 waves of the same frequency, the bigger the amplitude the more energy the wave carries.

    So we can trade the total energy of the wave. We may lower the frequency but increase the amplitude so the overall energy of the wave will be the same.

    Are there any limits to this? Could we for example create a microwave but of such high amplitude that it would carry the same energy as a low amplitude X-ray or even gamma-ray wave?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2015 #2
    Yes, you can. Your analysis is correct.
    The photoelectric effect has no relevance to the OP question.
  4. Jul 11, 2015 #3
    Thanks. Are there any significant effects related to this. For example, let's say we take a certain target and we fire 2 waves at it (in separate experiments), one is a very high amplitude microwave and one is a low amplitude gamma-ray, both of them carrying the same energy. Will the effect on the target be different, and why?
  5. Jul 11, 2015 #4
    It may. Here come into play the effects mentioned by previous poster. No matter how much energy carries the microwave, there will be no photoelectric effect.
    But if you want to heat your food, microwaves will do better.
  6. Jul 12, 2015 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    The microwaves produced by your microwave oven typically have FAR more energy than even extremely high gamma rays. The reason for this is that although gamma rays have very high energies per photon, their method of creation usually only creates one or two photons at a time, so the total energy is very low.
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