Determining Wave Speed

Section 8.4
Key Terms
Universal Wave Equation
Linear Density
Universal Wave Equation
To determine the how fast a wave is moving, you
must know:
 Its
period (eg – time between successive crests passing
a reference point)
 Its wavelength (distance between crests)
You can then calculate wave speed using the

equation for average speed:  =

 Or,
for wave speed
Universal Wave Equation cont’d
Since frequency is the reciprocal of period, we can
further develop the equation:
Sample Problem 1
A harp string supports a wave with a wavelength of
2.3 m and a frequency of 220.0 Hz. Calculate its
wave speed.
Given: = 2.3 m; f = 220.0 Hz
Required: v = ?
Analysis: v = f
Solution: v = f
= (220.0 Hz)(2.3 m)
v = 506 m/s
Statement: The wave speed on the string is 506 m/s
Sample Problem 2
A trumpet produces a sound wave that is observed
travelling at 350 m/s with a frequency of 1046.50
Hz. Calculate the wavelength of the sound wave.
Given: v = 350 m/s; f = 1046.50 Hz
Required: = ?
Analysis: = v/f
Solution: = (350 m/s) / (1046.50 Hz)
= 0.33 m
Statement: The wave speed on the string is 0.33 m
Practice Questions 1-3
530 m/s
140 m
2.0 x 102 Hz
Factors That Affect Wave Speed
Energy transfers much more efficiently using waves
is more efficient if the particle vibrations do not
absorb much energy.
 An
inflated soccer ball will bounce much more
effectively than a deflated one.
Linear Density
The speed of a wave along a string is governed by
the properties of the string.
 Think
guitar/violin strings.
 A string’s linear density, µ (mass per unit distance),
determines how much force it will take to make the
string vibrate.
= mass of string in kg, L = length in metres
String Tension
String tension will also affect wave speed
 Loose
 FT
strings vs. taut strings
= tension in the string, in newtons
 µ = linear density, in kg/m
Sample Problem 1
A wave machine has a string of mass 350g and a
length of 2.3m. What must the tension of the string
be to send a wave along the string at a speed of
50.0 m/s?
Practice questions 1-3
The universal wave equation
relates the speed of
a wave to its frequency and wavelength. The universal
wave equation applies to all waves.
More rigid intermolecular forces allow for a faster
transfer of energy, and therefore a higher wave speed
in a medium.
Waves travel faster in hotter gases than in cooler gases
because of the increased molecular motion caused by
the higher temperature in a hotter gas.
The speed of a wave on a string depends on the linear
density of the string and the string’s tension:
Page 391
 Questions

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