# Sound Waves concept problem

I am a student . I am trying to understand sound waves.

The book which I have got says:

In these longitudinal waves there is a phase gap of π/2 between the displacement and pressure waves.

If Y= A sin(wt -kx), then p= BkA cos(wt - kx)

Where p is the pressure difference from normal pressure and B is bulk modulus of the gas

(1) My question is what pressure wave actually is.

(2)What is the meaning of pressure difference from normal pressure in the equation.

Thanks

• Related? Dec 19, 2018 at 7:51

To answer your second question, the undisturbed fluid, liquid or gas, is under a constant pressure in equilibrium, say P0. The acoustic wave is a change in this background value, say delta(P) not a differential but a small perturbation. The wave equation can be derived from first principles using the equations of fluid mechanics by assuming small perturbations of all macro variables about their equilibrium position.

To elaborate on your first question, answered by another post, the pressure wave is the solution of the wave equation that describes the behavior of the small perturbation in pressure, delta(P). The "wave" will travel through the medium despite the elements of the medium staying in their local neighborhood. The displacement of particles from their equilibrium position causes a momentary increase in density in the direction of motion and a decrease of density in the opposite direction. This in turn generates the pressure difference. Collisions with more particles will cause the initially displaced particles to move back to their equilibrium position and a new pocket of fluid particles will travel in the direction of the displacement. The initially displaced particles are now in equilibrium (more or less) and the disturbance moves in the direction of the initial displacement. If there is a vibrating source then the process continues at the frequency of the vibrating source.

Some descriptions of acoustics do not directly solve for pressure waves, but do solve for the displacement potential, or velocity potential. The equations of state relate pressure, density, and this potential function so once you have one you have them all.

• What is the difference between 'displacement potential' and 'velocity potential'? Dec 19, 2018 at 16:44
• Re. " momentary increase in density in the direction of motion and a decrease of density in the opposite direction." Then is there also a wave in the 'opposite direction'-- a rarification wave? Dec 19, 2018 at 16:57
• Not really, I was describing a pulse. Both the compression and rarification deltas travel in the same direction, as a pair,
– user196418
Dec 19, 2018 at 17:05
• As for displacement vs velocity, most treatments assume a periodic time dependence, exp(+/-iwt) for all fields. In this case you can define a displacement potential proportional to the velocity potential. The velocity potential is the fundamental quantity when V is irrotational.
– user196418
Dec 19, 2018 at 18:33

A wave is a propagation of disturbances. The disturbances are passed to atoms, giving them kinetic energy and causing vibrations, which are further passed on to others.

A pressure wave occurs when particles are pushed by the wave in a pattern that causes particles to spread out or group together, forming areas of high and low pressures. Since sound waves are longitudinal waves, such as in those propagating from a tuning fork, air particles will be pushed to and fro, forming compressions and rarefactions, where compressions are areas with larger amounts of air particles and hence larger pressure, while rarefactions are the opposites.