Wave Vector

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The Wave Vector (or wavevector) refers to a vector that describes the phase variation of a plane wave, in 3-orthogonal directions (x, y, and z-axes typically). The magnitude of the wavevector is the wavenumber.

For a wave propagation in a direction described by the spherical coordinates , the wavevector k is given by:

wave vector

The x-component of the wavevector, , determines the rate of change of the phase of a propagating plane wave in the +x-direction. The same definitions apply for the y- and z-directions.

The wave vector is a property of plane waves. The phase variation for a plane wave will always be wave phase change.

Hence, the magnitude of the wave vector will be equal to the wavenumber. Therefore:

wave vector magnitude is constant

If =, then the other two components of the wave vector (ky and kz) must be zero.

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