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i'm a high school student and i was reading about electromagnetic waves and how they transport energy and that the electric and magnetic fields sustain each other.

I have also read about longitudinal waves which travel due to contractions and rarefactions and also transport energy by changing the relative positions of the particles of the medium.

So,i was wondering whether there could exist a wave which travels 'through' an atom or sub-atomic particle which would traverse by changing the quantum states of the said particles?

For example, a particle may oscillate between different quantum states and the particles surrounding it may do so too but in such a way that a 'wave' appears to pass through them.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Christoph: you should post that as an answer $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jan 19 '14 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie: done $\endgroup$ – Christoph Jan 19 '14 at 12:06
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First of all, the facetious answer is that because all classical systems are actually quantum, any classical wave actually affects quantum state.

Now, there are of course also systems that are explicitly non-classical. One example would be spin waves in magnetic materials. Quantum mechanics associates quasi-particles with such waves, which are known as magnons.

This also happens with collective vibrational excitation of solids, where such quasi-particles are known as phonons.

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