Fluid damps vibrations due to viscous dissipation.

Does anyone has any insight on a molecular, microscopic level
about the reasons that vibration damping of metals is negligible?


Damping implies a loss mechanism. In liquids, where molecules move freely in close proximity, this loss mechanism is a transfer of momentum from one molecule to another.

In pure crystalline metals, the position of atoms in the lattice is fixed, and the forces between them are elastic. That is, if an atom is displaced, it will experience a force that puts it back in its original place, because that place is energetically more favorable. This means the atoms live at the bottom of a potential well. Contrast this with molecules in a liquid which don't have a "favored" place.

As was pointed out by don_gunner94, once you move to "real" metals with a complex microstructure, it is possible to introduce loss mechanisms - such as presented by the graphite in gray cast iron. Under stress, atomic bonds are broken and rearranged; this leads to dissipation of elastic energy, and thus vibration damping. Atoms no longer have a fixed place in the material.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much. If i don't say something absurd, the reason is the same reason that people do not fall through the floor, the Pauli principle that electrons cannot occupy the same place? $\endgroup$ – veronika Apr 29 '16 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ To a point though it's always going to be a question of degree since any transmission is going to suffer some degree of dampening regardless of the substance in the real world since there is no such thing as a truly rigid body, perfectly elastic collisions or collections of particles immune to quantum effects. Thus any vibration is going to suffer a decrease in amplitude and increase in entropy (resulting in distortion) as it travels the degree to which this happens passing through a fixed thickness of matter would depend on the matter in question but it would always exist. $\endgroup$ – MttJocy Apr 29 '16 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Damping requires somewhat of a spring-like effect as the material must act as a sponge. The more dense materials will not be able to take this impact since the electrons are packed too densely and will move as a unit.Think of damping as the amount of energy absorb-able by a system. physics.stackexchange.com/questions/83683/…. Rubber is soft and springy compared to metal. It may be useful to explore momentum and inertia to discover how much energy it takes to move an object as well. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Scott Evans Apr 29 '16 at 22:00

I'd like to point out the example of cast iron. It is renowned for its excellent vibration-damping properties. It is wrong to reach a blanket conclusion saying that metals are bad for vibration damping. The properties of any solid depends part on the material it is made up of and part on the micro-structure of the material. By micro-structure, I mean the arrangement of the grains of that material. Research has led to many new metal alloys being developed that have excellent vibration damping properties. Let me take the example of gray cast iron and talk about its damping properties. If you take a close look at the micro-structure of such irons, you will see a high concentration of graphite in the form of flakes. Higher the amount of graphite, better the vibration damping. But on the other hand, this leads to drastic reduction in the strength of gray cast iron as compared to its other cousins.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yes, this is a correct and very essential exception. And of course the price we pay is that we can only compress cast iron, it is dangerous to pull or bend this material $\endgroup$ – veronika Apr 29 '16 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ that is a nice example but are these properties due to fact that it is a metal at all? Would some ceramic have similar properties for example? $\endgroup$ – gatsu Apr 29 '16 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @gatsu ceramics are also often very poor vibration dampers. The computer you are reading this on has a clock based on a vibrating quartz crystal. Quartz, though it has a high youngs modulus and requires a lot of force to deform, does deform elastically with little damping. The fact that quartz will break when bent much sooner than a similarly dimensioned piece of metal is a different thing entirely. $\endgroup$ – Level River St Apr 29 '16 at 19:41

Metals are not liquids (I am referring to metals which are in solid phase in standard conditions of pressure and temperature) and have no viscous mechanical dissipation on time scales associated with most mechanical vibrations. This implies that they can transmit transverse waves contrary to fluids. How efficiently they can do so is related to the details of their structures.

That being said, metals do have a property similar to the non-passing of transverse mechanical waves in a fluid and it is that of the non-passing of transverse electromagnetic (EM) waves in a metal. The difference with fluids is that, instead of being simply dissipated, the EM waves are reflected at the metal surface. This is the effect we see everyday when looking in a mirror.

  • $\begingroup$ it is not a complete answer. $\endgroup$ – don_Gunner94 Apr 29 '16 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ if i get it right, metals do not damp, because in final analysis, can resist shear forces ( unlike fluids)? $\endgroup$ – veronika Apr 29 '16 at 14:21

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