Which Type of Wave Cannot Travel in a Vacuum?

Vacuum is a state without any matters. Compared to our usual atmosphere, it is filled with air. Here, the air is the matter that helps to transfer waves that require a medium to propagate. But as there is no such atmosphere in the vacuum, some of the variations of waves cannot travel in the vacuum. The question is which type of wave cannot travel in a vacuum.

If you are wondering about which waves cannot travel through a vacuum, you have arrived at the right place. In this article, we will let you know about some variations of the wave that cannot travel through the vacuum. Check out the guide to find out the different types of waves that cannot travel in a vacuum.

Which Type of Wave Cannot Travel in a Vacuum?

There are actually several waves that cannot travel in a vacuum. These include the waves that travel through vacuuming. Moreover, the mechanical waves cannot travel through the vacuum. Some of the examples of travel that cannot propagate in a vacuum include sound waves, seismic waves, etc. Below, we will discuss these in detail.

Sound Waves

The sound wave is nothing but a pattern of vibration that can travel through mediums with matters. Some of the perfect mediums for sound waves include water, air, and other solid and liquid matters. As an example, let think about the ringtone of your phone. When it gets a call, the mechanism inside the phone produces the sound which is basically creating certain vibrations. The vibration disturbs the particles in the air.

Following the same way, the particles of the air disturb or vibrate the particles next to them. Just think about throwing a rock into the pond. When you throw the rock, there are waves created around the spot where the rock fall. The first waves then disturb the water next to it to create the next waves. This way the whole water body gets the waves when you throw something in the pond or pool.

Why Sound Waves Cannot Travel in Vacuum?

The above-given discussion should already give you the answer. The sound waves require matters to move. As there is no matter in the vacuum, the sound waves cannot move from one point to another. Because there are no particles in the vacuum, sound waves cannot travel in the vacuum. We can talk about the space as a vacuum. It is somewhere close to the ideal vacuum as per the scientist.

When two astronauts talk inside the spaceship, they can hear each other. That is because there is an atmosphere inside the ship that contains air. As air is the perfect particle for the sound to travel, one astronaut can hear another when they talk inside the ship. But when they step out from the ship, they cannot hear each other even when standing next. That is because there are no mediums or the matters or the airs to carry the sound waves.

Seismic Waves

Another variation of the wave that cannot travel through in the vacuum is the seismic wave. In case you don’t know, the seismic waves are the ones that cause the earthquake which we humans can easily feel on the earth’s surface as vibration. There are different variations of seismic waves which pass through the earth’s layer.

Earthquake is not the only thing that can produce seismic waves. Some other things like magma movement, volcanic eruption, and huge manmade explosions can also produce seismic waves. There is another natural condition which can cause the low-amplitude waves which is another variation of the seismic waves. To detect and measure the seismic waves, there are different tools like seismometer, hydrophone, accelerator, etc.

Seismic waves work like sound waves. It uses the vibration to move from one point to another point. Usually, the condition of the seismic waves depends on several things like velocity, range, and some other thing. There are also several types of seismic waves that cause the strength or traveling capability of the wave. There are body waves, surface waves, private waves, secondary waves, love waves, and some other variations of seismic waves.

Why Seismic Waves Cannot Travel Through Vacuum?

Well, the reason is the same as the sound waves. The sound waves are basically vibrations that require a medium to travel from one space to another. Just like the sound waves, the seismic waves also require a proper medium to travel from one spot to another. Even seismic waves can travel in our atmosphere through the air. They will be in the form of sound when traveling throughout the atmosphere with air.

So, the takeout here is the seismic waves need a matter or medium to travel. As the medium is absent in the vacuum, they simply cannot move through the vacuum. Just like these two things, any other mechanical waves also cannot move through the vacuum. In case you don’t know, mechanical waves also require a medium to travel. Waves that travel as vibration are all different forms of mechanical waves.

Some other variation of mechanical waves includes the transverse, water waves, surface waves, spring waves, longitudinal, etc.

Which Waves can Travel Through Vacuum?

Now let’s talk about the waves that can travel through the vacuum. The electromagnetic waves are the ones that can easily propagate in a vacuum. Some examples of mechanical waves include the x-ray, radio waves, visible light, ultraviolet, and much more. Like mechanical waves, they don’t require a medium to travel from one place to another.

As an example, we can talk about light. It can easily travel through a vacuum. That is because light can move as both waves and photon particles. As their waves don’t require any sort of medium like the sound do, they can easily move through vacuum and non-vacuum at the same speed.


As we discussed above, the type of wave that cannot travel in a vacuum includes sound waves, seismic waves, and all other forms of mechanical waves.

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