How Do Radios Work?


What Does a Radio Do?

  • A radio is a device that can send and receive radio signals. By using electric current, you can manipulate waves that run along the electromagnetic spectrum. People cannot hear and see radio waves without help, so they use radio receivers and transmitters to decode information that has been placed on carrier wave signals. These types of signals can be long or short, depending on what it is you want to hear or see.

What Happens to Radio Waves?

  • Radio stations send out radio signals by creating electromagnetic fields in the air. When you use electric current, you can disturb normal (and invisible) fields that exist in the air by exciting air particles. These disturbances create waves that normally travel outward from the wave source. This process looks similar to a wave in the water. If someone drops a pebble in water, waves will travel outward until they disappear. Rather than allow a radio wave to disappear entirely, a radio can capture these waves and convert radio signals into electrical impulses people can understand. It can also create its own waves, too. Kilohertz (kHz), megahertz (MHz) and gigahertz (GHz) are used to measure various waves and frequencies. A person need only to tune into specific frequencies to hear a song, for example.

How Do Radios Catch A Wave?

  • Radio waves make up a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. You can use a radio to filter out the various waves you do not want, and then receive signals that you do want. A radio antenna generally is used to capture waves midair, but the antenna does not change the signal itself. The conversion of wave particles to electrical impulse happens inside the radio box.

How Can We Hear a Wave?

  • After the radio antenna catches a wave, the radio receiver has to change or modulate the signal. A radio receiver is made up of several parts, but not all are made the same. If you took apart certain radios, you would probably notice a simple circuit board inside. Other radios can be made up of seperate pieces that usually include a collection of capacitors and coil wires. The various pieces inside the radio work together to decipher the rhythm and the encoded wave. The antenna essentially sends that rhythm into a radio speaker. That rhythm also tells the speaker which way to recognize a frequency. Simply, the antenna sends information to the radio speaker about which way to point itself to be able to hear a given frequency.

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