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mechanical waves

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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

Normal Modes of a String 16

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

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

Illustration 17.1

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

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).

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

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.

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

LO3 interpret and use the mathematical expression for a sinusoidal periodic

wave.

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

Illustration 17.2

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.

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?

Equation 3 𝒗 = 𝝎⁄𝒌.

Work out how?

We can see visually 𝑦(𝑥) but not 𝑦(𝑡).

Both can be graphed.

Beware of axes label.

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

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)

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

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.

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

𝒙

Equation 7 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) = 𝑨𝐜𝐨𝐬𝝎 M𝒕 − 𝒗O

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

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.

(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).

7

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

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

=

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

Exercise 4

Write the particle velocity and acceleration as a function of position and time for the wave function

in Exercise 3.

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

This lesson has been recorded and can be watched on youtube Video:

https://youtu.be/Yd9lZs4uMR4]

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

9

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

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.

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

10

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

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.

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/

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

Figure 6

11

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

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

12

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

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

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

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.

Equation 20 𝒚(𝒙, 𝒕) =

The principle is also called principle of linear superposition because of linearity of the equation.

Exercise 6

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]

13

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

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

14

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

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

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

Figure 9

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

18

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