Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 1


1 Oscillations and Waves 7

mensions are reached. It could then no longer be expected that the masses and for-
ces would be evenly distributed. Elastic waves are therefore possible only in the
case of wavelengths which are still very long compared with the distances between
atoms or molecules.
The wave described in Fig. 1.3 is called a longitudinal wave because the oscillations
occur in the longitudinal direction, that is the direction of propagation, is not the
only kind of wave although from our point of view it is the most important. Since
compressional and dilatational forces are active in it, it is also called a pressure or
compression wave, and because its particle density fluctuates it has also been given
the name density wave.
This is the real sound wave because it transmits the oscillations of a source of
acoustic energy through the air to our ears. Experience shows that the same wave
also transmits sound through liquid or solid bodies.
However, in solid bodies another kind of wave can also occur, viz. the transverse
wave; it is indicated schematically in Fig. 1.4 in the form of an instantaneous pic-
ture of the particle motion. It will again be assumed that the wave travels from left
to right. It can be seen that in this case the particles no longer oscillate in the direc-
tion of propagation but at right angles to it, that is transverse.
The excitations can be visualised as a motion in which the particles on the left-
hand surface of the body are moved sinusoidally up and down by a periodical shear
force. In solid bodies such a shear force can be transmitted to the particles in the
adjacent planes but their transverse oscillations will show a lag in time, depending
on their distance from the plane of excitation. This wave is also called a shear wave
and the wavelength is determined by the distance between two planes in which par-
ticles are in a similar state. In Fig. 1.4 the wavelength is indicated between two
planes in which the particles instantaneously pass through their position of rest in a
direction from top to bottom.
The sound pressure of the longitudinal wave is in this case replaced by the alter-
nating shear force, but the name "shear of sound" is not used. The pressure is the
force at right angles to the unit surface, while the shear force is defined as the force
per unit surface, but parallel to it. Thus, the only difference between pressure and
shear is one of direction. In all other respects these two characteristics are identical.
In what follows we shall therefore speak only generally of sound pressure even
where this refers to the shear force in a transverse wave.
Figure 1.4 indicates that the shear is greatest where the particles pass through
their position of rest because at this point the relative displacement of two consecu-
tive particle planes is greatest. At the points of maximum amplitude the shear is
zero. The same has been found in respect of the sound pressure in Fig. 1.3: where
the particles oscillate through their position of rest they either come closest to each
other or are furthest apart. At these points the sound pressure reaches its maximum
(or its minimum) value. The generalised sound pressure and the motion of the par-
ticles are thus not in phase but transposed a quarter period relative to each other.
Since gases and liquids are in practice incapable of transmitting shear (other-
wise they could not flow so readily along walls or through pipes), transverse waves
can for the practical testing of materials penetrate appreciable distances only in
solid bodies.