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INTERNAL ASSESSMENT

Subject: Physics

Title: Correlation between speed of sound and temperature

SCHOOL CODE: 000563

CANDIDATE PERSONAL CODE: 0014

MENTOR/SUPERVISOR: Gorazd iberna

EXAMINATION SESSION: MAY 2016

Sound is something that is always present in our lives, but we never stop and think about

where it comes from and how long has it already been travelling. As a musician, I always

worry about the sound that comes from my guitar amplifier, the sound that my drum heads

emit and the sound that my clarinet produces. One thing I never usually think about is how

these sounds travel and are affected by temperature, such as playing in summer or winter.

What might the delay be, before the sound reaches the audience? Questions like these started

intriguing me and encouraged me to start finding answers.

Therefore, when I had to choose the experiment for my internal assessment, I knew I was

going to explore the very important relationship between physics and music. After discussing

with my professor, I decided to design an experiment where I would measure the velocity of

sound depending on temperature using an oscilloscope and a frequency generator.

The purpose of this investigation is to find the relationship between temperature and the speed

of sound using resonance.

The velocity of sound is calculated by the formula:

v =f

Where

m

s ),

the frequency of

n.d.) [1]

Speed of sound in a certain material depends on two main concepts: the density of the

material and its rigidity (elasticity).

The effect of rigidity is observed in different states This is also observed in solids, which have

the ability to transmit the sound the fastest. Then there are liquids and at the end gases, that

transmit sound the slowest.

Another important factor that influences the speed of sound is the air humidity. As humidity

increases, the number of water molecules in the air increases. The water molecules have a

1

smaller molecular mass than oxygen, carbon dioxide or nitrogen. When there are more water

molecules there is a lower mass to volume ratio. This leads to an overall smaller density of the

air. The denser the air, the slower the sound propagates through it.

The effect of humidity is a little greater at lower air pressures. At high altitudes (6000 m), the

speed was calculated to be around 0.7 percent larger in 100% humid air than in 0% humid air,

keeping the room temperature constant. When increasing the temperature, the effect of

humidity was found to be modestly bigger. (Brennan, J., n.d.) [2]

It was also experimentally determined that the speed of sound is proportional to the square

root of absolute temperature and the ratio of specific heats. (NASA, 2015) [3]

Exploration

Research question: How does the speed of sound in air depend on increasing air

temperature?

Dependent variable:

Wave frequency

Independent variable:

Air temperature

Controlled variables:

Wave length (was always constant for all measurements, equal to two heights of the

Thermometer (was equally calibrated for all measurements)

Oscilloscope (measuring range was kept constant through all the measurements)

Frequency generator output (output was always sinusoidal wave)

Receiver and speaker type (both were the same simple sound generators that could act

both as a receiver or a speaker)

Experiment

Hypothesis: The speed of sound will increase as the temperature increases because the

density of air decreases with higher temperatures, due to gas laws.

Equipment used in the experiment:

Frequency generator

Oscilloscope

Speaker

Receiver

Thermometer

Jar

Pot with water

Stove

I designed my experiment following this schema

Receiver

Jar

Oscillosco

pe

Frequency

generator

Speaker

Thermom

eter

First, I took a jar of a known height (16.8 cm) and two sound emitters from sound postcards. I

glued one at the top, which I used as a sound receiver, or a microphone. The other one, I glued

at the bottom and used it as a speaker. I also needed a thermometer in order to measure the

temperature inside the jar.

Next I connected the speaker to the frequency generator and the receiver to the oscilloscope to

be able to analyse the longitudinal wave that occurs. By incrementally increasing the

frequency from small values, I was searching for the maximum amplitude seen on the

oscilloscope. This point is known as the resonance point, as this is where the first standing

wave occurs, known as the fundamental 1 st harmonic that has the wavelength equal to 2

lengths of the jar. If we then further increase the frequency, we eventually reach 2 nd harmonic,

3rd harmonic and so on.

In order to increase the temperature, I put the jar in a pot full of water on the stove. Then I

slowly started heating the pot and the jar on low fire. The heat from the water was transferred

from the water to the air inside of the jar. I started recording the temperatures shown on my

thermometer, and for every change of exactly 2 Kelvins, I changed the frequency in order to

form a standing wave (resonance) in the jar and then recorded that frequency. I repeated the

experiment 3 times, and calculated the average value of the frequency for each temperature.

Raw data

Table 1: Raw data of frequencies

T (C)

f (Hz)

0.05

22.0

24.0

26.0

28.0

30.0

32.0

34.0

36.0

38.0

40.0

0.005

1026

1028

1032

1036

1038

1042

1046

1048

1052

1056

42.0

44.0

46.0

48.0

50.0

52.0

54.0

56.0

58.0

60.0

1060

1062

1066

1070

1074

1078

1080

1084

1088

1092

62.0

64.0

66.0

68.0

70.0

72.0

74.0

76.0

78.0

80.0

1096

1098

1102

1106

1110

1114

1118

1122

1126

1130

https://cnx.org/resources/aa67fb155f2f0a86a459138ef2af6da96c5b86d0/StandingWaveHarmonics.png

4

Analysis

Velocities were calculated by the formula v =f .

Absolute uncertainties:

Frequency: 2 Hz

Wave length: 0.0005 m

Relative uncertainty of wavelength: 0.3%

Absolute uncertainty of the slope is calculated as half of the difference between maximum and

minimum slopes in the linearized graph of frequency with square root of absolute

temperature:

Hz

K

2.5

100=3.9

64.6

Relative uncertainty of speed of sound is 3.9 +0.3 =4.2

Calculated velocities of sound according to different temperatures are then calculated and

shown in Table 2.

T (C)

0.05

22.0

24.0

26.0

28.0

30.0

32.0

34.0

36.0

V

(

m

)

s

4.2%

345

346

347

348

349

350

352

352

42.0

44.0

46.0

48.0

50.0

52.0

54.0

56.0

356

357

358

359

361

362

363

364

6

62.0

64.0

66.0

68.0

70.0

72.0

74.0

76.0

368

369

370

372

373

374

376

377

38.0

40.0

354

355

58.0

60.0

366

367

78.0

80.0

378

380

As we can see, the velocity of sound increases with an increase in temperature. By calculating

the slope of the graph at the beginning for the first four measurements, we can see it measures

7

at approximately 0.5

m

s

and towards the end for the last four measurements, around 0.75

m

s .

Evaluation

Research question was: How does the speed of sound in air depend on increasing air

temperature? It was found that the results speak in favour of my hypothesis as the speed of

sound did actually increase with increasingly higher temperature. This is most probably

because of the density change of air at higher temperature. Due to gas laws, a higher

temperature results in lower density, which in turn leads to a higher speed of sound. It was

also found that the rate of increase in speed of sound started increasing at higher temperatures.

This is because the speed of sound is linearly dependent on the square root of absolute

temperature. Also, the fact that the jar was not completely sealed could have a small effect. In

order to install the wires and the thermometer, the jar was slightly open and as the

temperatures increased also the amount of water vapour produced from the water in the pot

increased. Some of the vapour went into the jar, which resulted in a graph with exponential

growth because of the effect of humidity.

Main source of systematic errors was the inability to perfectly determine when resonance in

the jar was reached. The display on the oscilloscope allowed me to see when resonance was

reached, but it couldnt help me to determine the point of maxima on the displayed curve.

Therefore, there were probably some mistakes present in determining the wave frequency.

Another important error was controlling the density of air as it is not an ideal gas, so I

assumed its composition was constant throughout the experiment with the exception of water

vapour, as previously discussed. Another important error was the way the thermometer

measured the temperature. Sometimes, it inconsistently jumped through larger value

increments. This error was minimised by carefully observing its measurements throughout the

experiment in order to get an accurate representation.

It would be better to use a newer and more advanced oscilloscope as it was hard to detect

maximum amplitude. More accuracy would be needed for the measurements to be completely

legitimate. I have also only measured the frequencies every two degrees Celsius. Combined

with the uncertainty of the oscilloscope, the readings could be quite inaccurate, resulting in an

8

uneven graph. It would be better to use smaller temperature increments, combined with a

precise and reliable thermometer and also a more modern oscilloscope that could also help me

analyse the points on the graph.

It would also be interesting to measure the speed of sound depending on temperature in other

types of mediums and see what kind of graph would occur in them. This could in the end help

us to also analyse and develop new techniques for recording sounds that instruments emit, and

develop a more advanced and modern approach to recording in studios.

References

[1]The Speed of Sound. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2016, from

http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/sound/Lesson-2/The-Speed-of-Sound

[2]

Brennan, J. (n.d.). How Does Humidity Affect Speed of Sound? Retrieved March 23,

[3]

Hall, N. (2015, May 5). Speed of Sound. Retrieved March 23, 2016, from

https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/sound.html

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