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SHAHRUL KADRI BIN AYOP ©Monday, September 16, 2019 for SFT3023 GGO

TOPIC 2 MECHANICAL WAVES


LEARNING OUTCOMES
At the end of the topic, you will be able to
• describe a mechanical wave, and its varieties.
• use the relationship among speed, frequency, and wavelength for a periodic wave. 

• interpret and use the mathematical expression for a sinusoidal periodic wave. 

• calculate the speed of waves on a rope or string. 

• explain mechanical waves interference. 

• analyze the standing waves on a string.

Table of Contents
LO1 describe a mechanical wave, and its varieties. 2

LO2 use the relationship among speed, frequency, and wavelength for a periodic wave. 
 3

LO3 interpret and use the mathematical expression for a sinusoidal periodic wave. 
 4
Particle Velocity and Acceleration in a Sinusoidal Wave 8

LO4 calculate the speed of waves on a rope or string. 
 9

LO5 explain mechanical waves interference. 
 11

LO6 analyze the standing waves on a string. 15


Normal Modes of a String 16

Important Formula and Physics 18

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LO1 describe a mechanical wave, and its varieties.


https://www.compadre.org/physlets/

Illustration 17.1

A mechanical wave is a travelling disturbance in a medium.


As the wave travels, particles in the medium undergo displacements.
The particles displace vertically with respect to the transverse wave propagation (Animation 1 and
2).
The particles displace parallel with respect to the longitudinal wave propagation (Animation 3).
Some mechanical waves compose of both components of particle displacement, for example
water surface wave (Animation 5).
Each particle in the medium of wave propagation can be treated as a single SHO.
All waves including mechanical waves transport energy, but not matter, from one region to
another.
Suppose two waves is propagating through a slinky to the right in Figure 1
Choose any point representing a particle on the slinky.
Sketch a vector of wave propagation and a vector of displacement at that point for each slinky.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/2Wlh3M2a10U/hqdefault.jpg
Figure 1

The disturbance in the medium moves at specific speed called wave speed.
This is not the same as particle speed.
Could you differentiate them?

Exercise 1
List out similarities and differences between transverse and longitudinal mechanical waves.

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LO2 use the relationship among speed, frequency, and wavelength for a
periodic wave.

Let us consider the simplest mechanical wave, a periodic transverse wave on a string.

Figure 2 [Illustration 17.1 Animation 2] Snapshot at 𝒕 = 𝟒. 𝟏𝟓𝐬 (left) and 𝒕 = 𝟔. 𝟖𝟓𝐬 (right).

Consider the motion of a particle indicated in Figure 2.


The particle takes the duration of 𝑇 to oscillate in one complete cycle.
When the particle completes one cycle, the wave moved as far as 𝜆.
𝜆 is called the wavelength of the wave, the distance between two consecutive points of the same
phase.
The phase can be understood as the rhythm of points.

For longitudinal waves such as sound, the wavelength can be deduced from the distance
between consecutive rarefactions or compression as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Therefore, we can formulate the wave speed as


Equation 1

Exercise 2
Determine the period of the wave in Figure 2. If the wavelength of the wave is 30 cm, calculate the
wave speed.

RECOMMENDED EXERCISE 15.1 to 15.6

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LO3 interpret and use the mathematical expression for a sinusoidal periodic
wave.
https://www.compadre.org/physlets/

Illustration 17.2

A wave can be described by a wave function, 𝑦(𝑥, 𝑡).


For a traveling wave on a string, 𝑦 represents the particle displacement at any location 𝑥 along the
string at any time 𝑡.

𝑦(𝑥, 𝑡) contains various useful information about the wave, for example wave speed, particle
velocity and acceleration.
Now, we will develop the wave function of a sinusoidal wave, which is a transverse wave along a
string.

All particles along the string acts as a SHO, but they are not in step (not in phase) except those
located in multiple distance of 𝜆.

Before we proceed, it is convenient to introduce a wave number (𝑘).


𝟐𝝅
Equation 2 𝒌=
𝝀
CAUTION! Both force constant and wave number use the same symbol, but they refer to different
thing. What is the unit of force constant and wave number?

Using Equation 2, we can transform wave speed equation 𝑣 = 𝑓𝜆 to


Equation 3 𝒗 = 𝝎⁄𝒌.
Work out how?

A wave function 𝑦(𝑥, 𝑡) consists of 𝑦(𝑥) and 𝑦(𝑡).


We can see visually 𝑦(𝑥) but not 𝑦(𝑡).
Both can be graphed.
Beware of axes label.

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Figure 4 Snapshot at 𝒕 = 𝟎𝐬 (left) and 𝒕 = 𝑻 (right).


Consider a traveling transverse wave on a string to the right ( 𝑥 -axis) as shown in Figure 4.

𝑦(0,0) 𝑦(𝜆, 𝑇)
𝑦(0, 𝑇)

𝑦(𝜆, 0)

We start to describe the wave 𝑡 = 0 when the particle 𝑥 = 0 is at maximum displacement.


The wave travels to a point 𝑥 to the right of the origin in an amount of time given by 𝑥⁄𝑣.

The displacement of the particle at 𝑥 = 0 at any time 𝑡 (as seen on position vs time graph at the
right) is described as
Equation 4 𝒚(𝟎, 𝒕) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬𝝎𝒕

After the first cycle, 𝑡 = 𝑇, the particle at point 𝑥 = 𝜆 has the same motion as at 𝑥 = 0.
Equation 5 𝒚(𝝀, 𝑻) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬𝝎𝑻

In fact, Equation 5 repeated at the same interval of 𝑇


𝑦(𝜆, 𝑇) = 𝑦(𝜆, 2𝑇) = 𝑦(𝜆, 𝑛𝑇) = 𝐴cos𝜔𝑛𝑇
We can generalize at any 𝑡, the displacement at point 𝑥 = 𝜆 is periodically repeating cos function
K
with period of 𝑇 = .
L
K
Therefore, the 𝑛𝑇 is replaced by M𝑡 − LO to show the periodicity.

So, we can express the displacement of particle at 𝑥 = 𝜆 at any time is


𝝀
Equation 6 𝒚(𝝀, 𝒕) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬𝝎 M𝒕 − 𝒗O

At any position other than at 𝑥 = 𝜆 and time 𝑡, the particle displacement can be generalized from
Equation 6 by substituting 𝜆 with 𝑥.
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𝒙
Equation 7 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬𝝎 M𝒕 − 𝒗O

By mathematical manipulation above, the most general form of wave function is


Equation 8 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬(𝝎𝒕 − 𝒌𝒙)

Since cos function is an even function, 𝑐𝑜𝑠(𝑎) = 𝑐𝑜𝑠(−𝑎), Equation 8 is also equals to
Equation 9 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬(𝒌𝒙 − 𝝎𝒕)

The term inside the bracket of Equation 8 and Equation 9 is called phase.
The phase can be (𝑘𝑥 − 𝜔𝑡) or (𝑘𝑥 + 𝜔𝑡) depending on the direction of wave propagation, which
will be shown later.

The displacement is maximum when the phase is 0, 𝜋, 2𝜋…. 𝑛𝜋.


The phase is constant for a wave traveling at constant speed.
Therefore, if (𝑘𝑥 − 𝜔𝑡) = 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡
𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡 + 𝜔𝑡
𝑥=
𝑘
Taking derivative to find the wave speed or so-called phase speed.

𝒅𝒙 𝝎
Equation 10 𝒗= 𝒅𝒕
= 𝒌
This is another derivation alternative of Equation 3.
The similar way of derivation can be showed that phase (𝑘𝑥 + 𝜔𝑡) = constant resulted in negative
velocity.

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Exercise 3

Bokhari holds one end of a clothesline taut and wiggles it up and down with one oscillation in a
second and amplitude 0.065 m. The speed of the resulted wave is 10.0 m/s traveling to the right.
At 𝑡 = 0, the left has maximum positive displacement and is instantaneously at rest. Assume no
wave bounces back from the far-right end.

(a) What type of wave is produced? Justify your answer.

(b) Determine 𝐴, 𝜔, 𝑇, 𝜆 and 𝑘 of the wave.

(c) Write the wave function of the wave.

(d) Write the equation for the displacement as a function of time at the left end 𝑦(0, 𝑡). Sketch the
graph of the displacement versus time of 𝑦(0, 𝑡).

(e) Write the equation for the displacement as a function of time at the point 2.5 m from the left
end 𝑦(2.5, 𝑡). Sketch the graph of the displacement versus time of 𝑦(2.5, 𝑡).

(f) Write the equation for the displacement as a function of position at 𝑡 = 4.0s, 𝑦(𝑥, 4.0). Sketch
the graph of the displacement versus position of 𝑦(𝑥, 4.0).

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Particle Velocity and Acceleration in a Sinusoidal Wave


We can derive the particle velocity 𝑣] and acceleration 𝑎] as a function of time of any particle in a
transverse wave.

CAUTION! Particle velocity/speed is different than wave velocity/speed. If wave travels at constant
speed, the wave acceleration is zero. However, particle acceleration varies with time to perform
SHM.

Since the wave function contains two variables, and we only need to differentiate Equation 8 with
respect to 𝑡 only, partial derivatives are used.

𝝏𝒚(𝒙,𝒕)
Equation 11 𝒗𝒚 (𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝝏𝒕
=

𝝏𝒗𝒚 (𝒙,𝒕) 𝝏𝟐 𝒚(𝒙,𝒕)


Equation 12 𝒂𝒚 (𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝝏𝒕
= 𝝏𝒕𝟐
=

Notice that the maximum velocity and acceleration in both equations equals to what we have
derived for SHM in the previous chapter.

By computing the second partial derivatives of Equation 8 with respect to 𝑥 and using Equation 3,
we can obtain one of the most important equations in physics called wave equation.
𝝏𝟐 𝒚(𝒙,𝒕) 𝟏 𝝏𝟐 𝒚(𝒙,𝒕)
Equation 13
𝝏𝒙𝟐
= 𝒗𝟐 𝝏𝒕𝟐

Try to get Equation 13.

Exercise 4
Write the particle velocity and acceleration as a function of position and time for the wave function
in Exercise 3.

RECOMMENDED EXERCISE 15.7 to 15.14

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LO4 calculate the speed of waves on a rope or string.

This lesson has been recorded and can be watched on youtube Video:
https://youtu.be/Yd9lZs4uMR4]

Wave speed is one of the important properties of wave.

The speed of light in air (~vacuum) is 3.00 × 10c m/s is much faster the speed of sound in air
~3.00 × 10e m/s. That is why we observed lightning bolt first before hear the clap of thunder.
We will derive the wave speed of wave on string. [Video: https://youtu.be/Yd9lZs4uMR4]

A quantity called linear mass density is introduced, and defined as the ratio of mass of string per
unit length. You can guess the unit.

𝒎
Equation 14 𝝁= 𝑳

Figure 5
Consider a small segment of length ∆𝑥 of a string where the transverse wave is traveling.
Each end of the segment experience forces 𝐹k and 𝐹e causing it to experience tension. These
components are resolved into perpendicular vertical and horizontal components.
In horizontal direction, the segment is in equilibrium condition. The same amount of forces but in
opposite direction 𝐹 act on it. 𝐹 is the tension in the string.
In vertical direction, the segment experience net force due to imbalance of 𝐹k] and 𝐹e] .
l] nop l] nrp
Note that the slope at left end is Mlm O = − n
, and at the right end is Mlm O = n
.
m mq∆m

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Recall that the wave function 𝑦(𝑥, 𝑡) has two independencies. Thus, partial derivative is employed
with respect to position 𝑥.
The net vertical force is

s 𝐹] = 𝐹k] + 𝐹e]

Substitute slope expressions into the right side of the above equation.
Equation 15
From the Newton Second’s Law 𝐹tuv = 𝑚𝑎, we get
𝝏𝟐 𝒚
Equation 16 𝑭𝒏𝒆𝒕 = (𝝁∆𝒙) M 𝝏𝒕𝟐 O

Since the net force in vertical direction is only∑ 𝐹] , equate Equation 15 with Equation 16 to get rid
of ∑ 𝐹] .
𝝏𝒚 𝝏𝒚 𝝏𝟐 𝒚
Equation 17 𝑭 |M O − M O } = (𝝁∆𝒙) M O
𝝏𝒙 𝒙q∆𝒙 𝝏𝒙 𝒙 𝝏𝒕𝟐

Rearrange to take the limit of ∆𝑥 → 0, as we take as little as possible the segment fraction.
𝜕𝑦 𝜕𝑦
•€𝜕𝑥 ‚ − €𝜕𝑥 ‚ ƒ
mq∆m m 𝜇 𝜕e𝑦
=
∆𝑥 𝐹 𝜕𝑡 e
to be
𝝏𝟐 𝒚 𝝁 𝝏𝟐 𝒚
Equation 18
𝝏𝒙𝟐
= 𝑭 𝝏𝒕𝟐

Compare Equation 18 with the standard wave equation (Equation 13), we get equation for wave
speed of transverse wave on string,

𝟏 𝝁 𝑭
Equation 19
𝒗𝟐
= 𝑭 → 𝒗 = …𝝁

Exercise 5
1. Derive the wave speed for a transverse wave on string.

2. In a stretched string, how to increase the wave speed on it?

3. For a standard guitar, all string has different linear mass density. If all of them are tighten at the
same tension, which string will produce wave at the highest speed? The thickest or thinnest?
Justify your answer.
RECOMMENDED EXERCISE 15.15 to 15.21

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LO5 explain mechanical waves interference.


When a wave is incident on an interface (wall, floor etc.), part of the wave is reflected (another part
is absorbed or transmitted).

The reflected wave meets with the ongoing wave, for example when you wiggle a rope with fixed
one-end, returned to you.

The superposition of waves is called interference.


Interference causes a new pattern consisting of hidden waves.

Now, we consider the reflection a transverse wave on string at two boundary conditions; fixed and
free ends. This is important to analyze further interference phenomena.

The following Physlet may help you visualize what happens at boundary

https://www.compadre.org/physlets/

Exploration 17.3: Traveling Pulses and Barriers

Figure 6 shows wave reflection at fixed end (left) and free end (right).

Figure 6

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Fixed end. Wave arrives at the particle tied at the end. The particle pulls the wall upward. The wall
reacts with downward force on the particle. The particle experiences the downward force and pull
its left neighbor down. The wave moves to the left. We say the phase of the reflected wave change
by 180o or 𝜋 rad at the fixed end with respect to the incident wave.

Free end. Wave arrives at the free particle at the end. The particle free to move upward. At
maximum displacement, it pushes its left neighbor upward together. The neighbor particle pulls
back to react. The wave moves to the left. We say the phase of the reflected wave unchanged at
the free end with respect to the incident wave.
The formation of the reflected pulse/wave at the boundary is analogous to the superpose of the
two pulses/waves at opposite direction.
For reflection at fixed end, the waves are out of phase between each other (Figure 7 left). At every
moment, the shape of the resultant wave change. The string’s particle displacement at any time is
equal to algebraic sum of original pulse/wave displacements. Therefore, there is a moment that
the resultant displacement is zero.
For reflection at free end, the waves are in phase between each other (Figure 7 left). At every
moment, the shape of the resultant wave change. The string’s particle displacement at any time is
equal to algebraic sum of original pulse/wave displacements too. Therefore, there is a moment
that the resultant displacement is maximum, or twice for identical original waves.
These two waves are in interference producing resultant wave of different shape at different time.

Figure 7

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The Principle of Superposition

https://www.compadre.org/osp/EJSS/3807/model5/77.htm

https://www.compadre.org/physlets/

Ill 17.3: Superposition of Pulses

The shape of interfered waves can be determined using the principle of superposition.
The principle of superposition states that the displacement of a resultant wave at a point in space
and time is equal to the sum of individual displacement of superposed waves at that point.

Mathematically, the resultant of two waves 𝑦k (𝑥, 𝑡) and 𝑦e (𝑥, 𝑡) is expressed as


Equation 20 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) =
The principle is also called principle of linear superposition because of linearity of the equation.

Exercise 6

1. A transverse wave on string travels to the right and is described by


𝑦k (𝑥, 𝑡) = 1.5 𝑐𝑜𝑠𝜋(𝑥 − 𝑡) where 𝑦 in m, 𝑥 in cm and 𝑡 in s.
(a) Sketch the 𝑦k (𝑡) for two complete cycle at x = 0.
(b) Sketch the 𝑦k (𝑥) for two wavelengths at t = 0.
(c) Due to reflection at the fixed end, the initial wave interferes with its reflection. Derive the
resultant wave function, 𝑦(𝑥, 𝑡). [Hint: cos(𝛼 ± 𝛽) = cos𝛼cos𝛽 ∓ sin𝛼sin𝛽]

RECOMMENDED EXERCISE 15.30 to 15.35

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2. Two pulses travel at 1 unit/s in the opposite direction in the same space. Figure shows pulse y1
travels to the right and y2 travels to the left at t = 0 s. Draw their interference at
t = 0 s, t = 1s , t= 2 s and t = 3 s with the correct scale. Arrows show the equilibrium point
baseline.

3. Two pulses travel in the opposite direction in the same space. y1 travels at 1 unit/s while y2
travels at 2 unit/s. Figure shows pulse y1 travels to the right and y2 travels to the left at
t = 0 s. Draw their interference at t = 0 s, t = 1 s and t = 2 s with the correct scale. Arrows
show the equilibrium point baseline.

y1
Equilibrium

point y2

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LO6 analyze the standing waves on a string.


https://www.compadre.org/physlets/

Illustration 17.4: Superposition of Traveling Waves

The Standing Wave Maker Interactive http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-


Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Standing-Wave-Patterns/Standing-Wave-Patterns-Interactive
Derivation for Question 1 in Exercise 6 showed that the amplitude of the resultant wave is twice
that the original.

Figure 8 shows visually how two identical waves propagating in opposition direction produce a
new wave called a standing wave.

Figure 8
Standing wave is resultant wave due to interference of two identical wave propagating in opposite
direction.
Suppose we have those wave, incident 𝑦k (𝑥, 𝑡) = 𝐴 𝑐𝑜𝑠(𝑘𝑥 − 𝜔𝑡) and reflected
𝑦k (𝑥, 𝑡) = 𝐴 𝑐𝑜𝑠(𝑘𝑥 + 𝜔𝑡), the resulted standing wave has the following form.
Equation 21 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝒚𝟏 (𝒙, 𝒕) + 𝒚𝟐 (𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝟐𝑨 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝒌𝒙𝐬𝐢𝐧𝝎𝒕
Equation 21 can be derived with the same way as Question 1 in Exercise 6.

Standing wave or stationary wave is called as such because the wave seems stationary, does not
move either right or left.
Properties of standing wave:
• amplitude is twice the original
• the particle displacement varies from 0 to 2A with time.
• visually does not move along the original wave propagation.

The standing wave can occur for a fixed-end string, where the original wave interferes with its
reflected wave. The two waves are called traveling waves which will produce a standing wave.
There are two points of importance on the standing wave; node and antinode as shown in Figure 9

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Figure 9
Constructive interferences occur at antinodes while destructive interferences occur at nodes.

Normal Modes of a String


Now we will consider a system of both fixed-ends string such as in stringed musical instruments.
(i.e. piano, guitar).

When the string is plucked, a wave is produced and traveling back and forth between the two
ends. Standing wave is established due to interference of these waves at specific frequency.
The vibration of the string disturbs surrounding air thus producing sounds at the frequency of the
standing wave.

Table 1 summarizes the feature of standing wave on the string. The standing wave only happens
at specific frequencies. The frequencies are called harmonics. The set of harmonics is called
harmonic series.

Determine the number of nodes and antinodes for each harmonic.


mode Vibration pattern Relation Harmonic Frequency Node
𝒏 𝒚(𝒙) between 𝑳 and name name number

𝝀
1 1st harmonic Fundamental
frequency

2 1st overtone

3 3rd harmonic

Table 1

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From the table, we can make a generalization about the relation between 𝐿 and 𝜆.
Equation 22

Using Equation 1, we can get an expression for harmonic frequency of the standing wave.
Equation 23

The harmonic frequency also depends on the tension and the linear mass density of the string.
By equating Equation 19 and Equation 23 to eliminate 𝑣, we get
Equation 24

At each harmonic, all particles on the strings oscillate at the same frequency.
The motion of these particles is called normal mode.
A string of length 𝐿 can have a set of allowed normal mode.

Therefore, the wave function of the established standing wave depends on the normal mode, by
slight modification of Equation 21. The 𝑛v• mode of the standing wave is generalised as
Equation 25 𝒚𝒏 (𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝟐𝑨 𝐬𝐢𝐧(𝒌𝒏 𝒙)𝐬𝐢𝐧(𝝎𝒏 𝒕 )

Exercise 7
1. The fourth overtone of 80 cm length guitar string is 2000 kHz under 700 N tension.
(a) Sketch the vibration pattern.
(b) Determine the fundamental frequency.
(c) Determine the fourth harmonic.
(d) Determine the linear mass density of the string.
(e) Write its wave function for normal mode 𝑛 = 2 if the amplitude of standing wave is
0.5 mm.

2. Based on Problem 17.11 http://www.compadre.org/Physlets/waves/prob17_11.cfm.

Snapshot shows a wave function of a standing wave of a string fixed at both-ends at three
consecutive instances. Write the wave function of the standing wave. Can you guess the mode of
the wave? [Given the scale of 𝑥-and y-axis is 1 cm/unit]
RECOMMENDED EXERCISE 15.36 to 15.50

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Important Formula and Physics


List out formulas, which you think, is useful for you.
Find similarity, different and connection between the following concept/quantity
• transverse wave vs longitudinal wave
• wave number versus wavelength
• wave function versus wave equation
• wave speed versus phase speed
• particle speed/velocity versus wave speed /velocity
• wave interference vs wave reflection
• traveling wave vs standing wave
• wave reflection at free end and fixed end
• node and antinode

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