Why cant a node or less than an antinode be present at the free ends of an open organ pipe. What's the logical reason behind an antinode existing at the open organ pipe? When I asked my teacher this question he answered it by another question "because air particles oscillates with maximum amplitude at the free ends". My question is Why do the air particles oscillate at the free ends with maximum amplitude? Is it necessary that air particles oscillate with max amplitude at the ends?


2 Answers 2


Personally, I find it easier to think about sound waves as pressure (or density) fluctuations rather than fluctuations in particle displacement. The gauge pressure has to be zero at open ends of the pipe because the pressure is just atmospheric pressure (gauge pressure zero). If you want to convert back to the displacement picture, the pressure and particle displacement are perfectly out of phase with each other, so pressure nodes will be displacement anti-nodes, and vice versa.


1D acoustic waves arises from the isentropic linearized Euler equations, namely

$\left\{\begin{matrix}\partial_t \rho + \rho_0 \partial_x u = 0 \\ \rho_0 \partial_t u - \partial_x P = 0 \end{matrix} \right.$

being $\rho$, $u$, $P$, the variation of density, velocity and pressure around the base state of the fluid at rest $\rho_0$, $u_0 = 0$, $P_0$.

If the process is isentropic, we can evaluate the derivative of pressure $P(\rho,s)$ as

$dP = \underbrace{\left( \dfrac{\partial P}{\partial \rho} \right)_s}_{= c_0^2} d\rho+ \left( \dfrac{\partial P}{\partial s} \right)_{\rho} \underbrace{ds}_{=0} = c_0^2 d \rho$,

where $c_0$ is the speed of sound in the reference base state. Using the last relation, we can write Euler equations as

$\left\{\begin{matrix} \frac{1}{c_0^2}\partial_t P + \rho_0 \partial_x u = 0 \\ \rho_0 \partial_t u - \partial_x P = 0 \end{matrix} \right.$

Now, at a free end in $x=L$:

  • pressure is equal to the pressure outside the pipe, and thus its variation is identically

    $P(x=L,t) = 0$;

  • if $P(L,t) = 0$ for every time $t$, its partial derivative w.r.t. time is identically equal to zero as well,

    $\partial_t P(L,t) = 0$;

  • using the first equation in the Euler system we get

    $0 = \partial_tP(L,t) = - \rho_0 c_0^2 \partial_x u(L,t)$,

    and thus the space derivative of the velocity field is equal to zero. If the solution of the wave equation is a standing wave, this condition coincides with:

    • an "anti-node" for the velocity, i.e. maximum amplitude of oscillations;
    • a node for the pressure field, since $P(L,t) = 0$
  • $\begingroup$ Could please give a base for understanding the isentropic equations? I know that sound propagates isentropically in air but really have no idea about the Euler equations are.Perhaps an external link or so. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Crosby
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Euler equations are the inviscid version of Navier-Stokes equations, i.e. the system of equations that govern the motion of a fluid. Wiki page is not that bad, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler_equations_(fluid_dynamics). I could give you some help in the (central europe) evening $\endgroup$
    – basics
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ You could take a look at the section "Thermodynamics of ideal fluids", that contains the equations in 3D. The equations in my answer are the linearization of the 1D version of those equations around an equilibrium state with fluid at rest. $\endgroup$
    – basics
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Im sorry I fail to understand them. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Crosby
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 16:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.