When you think about sound, the questions that arise in your minds are: How is sound produced? How does sound reach our ears from various sources? What is sound? Is it a force or energy? Let us answer all these questions.
By touching a ringing bell or a musical instrument while it is producing music, you can conclude that sound is produced by vibrations. The vibrating bodies produce energy in the form of waves, which are nothing but sound waves (Figure 5.1).
Suppose you and your friend are on the Moon. Will you be able to hear any sound produced by your friend? As the Moon does not have air, you will not be able to hear any sound produced by your friend. Hence, you understand that the sound produced due to the vibration of different bodies needs a material medium like air, water, steel, etc, for its propagation. Hence, sound can propagate through a gaseous medium or a liquid medium or a solid medium.
Sound waves are longitudinal waves that can travel through any medium (solids, liquids, gases) with a speed that depends on the properties of the medium. As sound travels through a medium, the particles of the medium vibrate along the direction of propagation of the wave. This displacement involves the longitudinal displacements of the individual molecules from their mean positions. This results in a series of high and low pressure regions called compressions and rarefactions as shown in figure 5.2.
(i) Audible waves – These are sound waves with a frequency ranging between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. These are generated by vibrating bodies such as vocal cords, stretched strings etc.
(ii) Infrasonic waves – These are sound waves with a frequency below 20 Hz that cannot be heard by the human ear. e.g., waves produced during earth quake, ocean waves, sound produced by whales, etc.
(iii) Ultrasonic waves – These are sound waves with a frequency greater than 20 kHz, Human ear cannot detect these waves, but certain creatures like mosquito, dogs, bats, dolphins can detect these waves. e.g., waves produced by bats.
When you talk about the velocity associated with any wave, there are two velocities, namely particle velocity and wave velocity. SI unit of velocity is metre (m)
The velocity with which the particles of the medium vibrate in order to transfer the energy in the form of a wave is called particle velocity.
The velocity with which the wave travels through the medium is called wave velocity. In other words, the distance travelled by a sound wave in unit time is called the velocity of a sound wave.
∴ Velocity = Distance / Time taken
If the distance travelled by one wave is taken as one wavelength (λ) and, the time taken for this propagation is one time period (T), then, the expression for velocity can be written as
∴ V = λ/T (5.1)
Therefore, velocity can be defined as the distance travelled per second by a sound wave. Since, Frequency (n) =1/T, equation (5.1) can be written as
V = nλ (5.2)
Velocity of a sound wave is maximum in solids because they are more elastic in nature than liquids and gases. Since, gases are least elastic in nature, the velocity of sound is the least in a gaseous medium.
So, vS > vL > vG
In the case of solids, the elastic properties and the density of the solids affect the velocity of sound waves. Elastic property of solids is characterized by their elastic moduli. The speed of sound is directly proportional to the square root of the elastic modulus and inversely proportional to the square root of the density. Thus the velocity of sound in solids decreases as the density increases whereas the velocity of sound increases when the elasticity of the material increases. In the case of gases, the following factors affect the velocity of sound waves.
Effect of density: The velocity of sound in a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of the density of the gas. Hence, the velocity decreases as the density of the gas increases.
Effect of temperature: The velocity of sound in a gas is directly proportional to the square root of its temperature. The velocity of sound in a gas increases with the increase in temperature. v ∝ √T. Velocity at temperature T is given by the following equation:
vT = (vo + 0.61 T) m s–1
Here, vo is the velocity of sound in the gas at 0° C. For air, vo = 331 m s–1. Hence, the velocity of sound changes by 0.61 m s–1 when the temperature changes by one degree celsius.
Effect of relative humidity: When humidity increases, the speed of sound increases. That is why you can hear sound from long distances clearly during rainy seasons.
Speed of sound waves in different media are given in table 5.1.
At what temperature will the velocity of sound in air be double the velocity of sound in air at 0o C?
Let To C be the required temperature. Let v1 and v2 be the velocity of sound at temperatures T1K and T2K respectively. T1 = 273K (0o C) and T2 = (To C + 273)K
T = (273 × 4) – 273 = 819º C