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Sound Propagation

through Media
Nachiketa Tiwari
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur


Longitudinal Vibrations In Thin Plates

Unlike 3-D solids, thin plates have surfaces which may be free
from constraints, thereby developing Poisson strains. Thus in
plates, longitudinal strains will produce lateral strains due to
Poisson contraction.
As a consequence, pure longitudinal waves can not exist in
thin plates and thus waves in one direction will generate
disturbances in other directions as well.
Hence, waves in thin isotropic plates are termed as quasilongitudinal.

For thin plates, deriving the wave equation for quasilongitudinal disturbances involves the same steps as that
needed for longitudinal waves in a 3-D solid, except the fact
that stress-strain relationship for plates is different.
It is known from elasticity theory that longitudinal stress and
longitudinal strain in a thin plate are related as:
Eq. 13.1

Thus the quasi-longitudinal wave equation for a thin plate is:

Eq. 13.2

Here cl is the wave propagation velocity in an isotropic

homogenous plate and is expressed as:
Eq. 13.3

Longitudinal Vibrations In 1-D Bars

For long 1-D homogenous isotropic bars, the wave
propagation equation is very similar to that for a thin plate,
except for the fact that its development requires a different
stress-strain relationship, which is:
Using this relationship, we get 1-D wave equation for bar as:
Eq. 13.4
Eq. 13.5

Transverse (Shear) Waves In Solids

Unlike fluids, solids can resist shear deformation as well.
In case if fluids, shear stress are associated with flow
gradients, and then gradients are driven by viscous dissipative
effects. Thus, shear waves generated in fluids dissipate rapidly
and hence are not of much importance.
However, in solids, it is the shear modular G, which couples
shear stress to shear strain. Thus shear waves in solids do not
dissipate as rapidly as in case of fluids.

Consider a small accelerating material element subjected

differential shear stress as shown in Fig. 13.1.

Here the element experiences shear stress xy on its left face,

on its right face. Because of the
imbalance of their shear stresses, the material element
accelerates in y direction and this motion is governed by Eq.
Eq. 13.6
Further, the application of shear stress on left and right faces
causes the material element to distort by angle r, and the
governing equation for it is:



Combining Eqs. 13.6 and 13.7 we get:



Thus, shear waves travel in 2-D solids with a speed of (G/)

and this speed is smaller than that of quasi-longitudinal

Torsional Waves In Bars

Bars when subjected to torsional forces, exhibit torsional
Such torsional waves are essentially shear waves.
The governing equation for such waves is:


=Torsional twist of bar at a given cross-section.

ct=Speed of torsional shear wave
Ip=Polar moment of inertia per unit length of bars.
GJ=Torsional stiffness.

Eq. 13.11

Bending Waves In Bars

Bending waves in bars (and plates) are of great practical
significance from an acoustical stand point.
This is so because bending waves in solids can generate
significant transverse displacements (w.r.t. propagation
direction of bending waves) and these transverse
displacements of significant amplitude can very effectively
disturb adjacent fluid to generate considerable sound levels.
Further, bending waves are associated with transverse
impedance which may be similar magnitude as that of sound
wave in adjacent fluid. This implies that the energy exchange
levels in solid and fluid media associated with bending waves
may be significant.

Bending Waves In Bars

The bending wave equation for a bar can be written as:
Eq. 13.12

E=Youngs modulus of material
I=Moment of inertia of bar at cross-section of interest
m=mass per unit length of bar
=Transverse displacement of bars at position x at its neutral
Unlike longitudinal waves, shear wave, and torsional wave in
solids, where the governing equation is a 2nd order PDE in x
and t, governing equation for bending waves for bars, Eq.
13.12 is a 4th order PDE in x, and 2nd order PDE in t.

It is because of this reason, that the propagation velocity of

bending waves, cb, is determined to be:
Eq. 13.13
Thus, unlike other waves discussed earlier, bending waves
propagation velocity depends on angular frequency of
excitation. Hence if a bar is excited in bending at several
frequencies, then all of these waves will disperse as they
propagate through the media.
Thus, bending waves are dispersive in nature.
Finally, the solution for bending waves excited by a simple
harmonic source, contains 4 terms. This is in contrast with the
solution for longitudinal shear or torsional waves.

Out of these four terms, two represent waves travelling in +ve

and ve directions at a speed of

The other two terms represent non-propagating fields, and

their amplitudes decay with distance. The velocity of the
decaying fields is imaginary.
Further these decaying fields do not transport energy and
hence do not qualify as waves. However, in literature, they
are referred as evanescent waves or alternatively as near

Acoustics, Beranek Leo L., Acoustical Society of
America, 1993.
Introduction to Acoustics, Finch Robert D., Pearson
Prentice Hall, 2005.
Fundamentals of Acoustics, Kinsler Lawrence E., et al,
4th ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2005.
Sound and Structural Vibration, Fahy Frank, et al, 2nd
ed., Academic Press 2007.