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Acoustic silencers or mufflers are devices designed to attenuate and/or

absorb air-borne sound waves propagated in a flowing medium. Typical
applications include air handling systems, exhaust and intake units, pumps,
compressors and air discharge lines.

Three types of silencers are commonly used:

- Absorptive or dissipative
- Reactive or reflective
- Dispersive or diffusive

Absorptive or Dissipative Silencers

Dissipative silencers employ a sound absorbing material to attenuate the
sound waves. The thickness of acoustical linings should be selected based
on the predominant frequency of the noise.

The incident sound energy is partially transformed to heat by causing motion
in the fibers during its passage through the material. Absorptive silencers
include lined duct attenuators, packaged cylindrical and rectangular
attenuators, acoustic louvers and lined plenum chambers.

Lined ducts

Lining the inside walls of a duct with sound absorbing materials is one
example of a dissipative silencer. Lined ducts are commonly used to
attenuate fan noise and duct transmission between adjoining spaces for
noise control in buildings. The material may either be bonded to the duct wall
or held in place using special fasteners.

The straight-through silencers usually consist of a cylindrical duct with a
sound absorbent lining around its inside face. The attenuation or noise
reduction can be computed from:


4 . 1
05 . 1 (45)

where is the Sabine absorption coefficient of the lining
material obtained from laboratory measurements
L is the length of duct, m
P is the perimeter of the lined duct, m
is the cross-sectional area of the duct, m

Although this type of silencer offers reasonably acceptable acoustic
performance for ducts with small cross-sectional areas, its effects on a typical
ventilation duct which might be 1m
will be relatively low unless very thick
linings are used. For better insertion loss performance, cylindrical and
rectangular splitter silencers are used.


Consider a duct 0.3 m by 0.5 m by 3 m (length) lined with 0.025 m of
fiberglass material, having the absorption coefficient given below. Calculate
the noise reduction (NR) at various frequencies.

3 m 0.5 m
0.025 m

0.3 m

P = 2 x (0.25 + 0.45) = 1.4 m
S = 0.25 x 0.45 = 0.1125 m

Using equation (45),

NR = 1.05 x
1125 . 0
4 . 1 3
= 39.2 x

f (Hz) 63 125 250 500 1,000 2,000 4,000 8,000
0.08 0.11 0.34 0.70 0.81 0.86 0.85 0.89

0.03 0.05 0.22 0.60 0.75 0.81 0.80 0.85
NR (dB) 1.2 2.0 8.6 23.5 29.4 31.8 31.4 33.3

Rectangular and cylindrical silencers

Addition of splitters into an airway can greatly improve the static insertion
loss performance of a silencer, but this is achieved at the expense of a
greater pressure drop. Parallel or annular baffles are common types of
absorptive silencers. The acoustical performance of such silencers is a
function of the length and thickness of the baffle sections, space between the
baffles, and absorption coefficients of the material used in the baffles.
The noise attenuation is about 10 to 30 dB per meter. Higher frequencies are
attenuated more than lower frequencies, but improved low-frequency
performance can be obtained by increasing the thickness and density of the
In cylindrical silencers, the splitter consists of a cylindrical pod or tubular
baffle in the middle of a lined cylindrical duct. They are often installed
immediately adjacent to an axial fan to reduce the pressure drop. In
rectangular silencers, parallel baffler units of absorbing material, often
protected by plastic or perforated metal are used. The performance of
rectangular silencers is similar to that of cylindrical silencers good high
frequency attenuation with somewhat lesser performance at lower

Commercially manufactured silencers are often produced in modular form
enabling them to be stacked and combined by the user to fit any size or
performance requirements.

Lined bends or elbows

An elbow or a bend in a lined duct can improve the sound attenuation. When
sound energy is forced to turn a corner, the walls of which are lined with
acoustical material, the sound energy is forced to impinge directly on a sound
absorbing surface as it reflects its way around the corner; each successive
impingement takes sound energy from the travelling wave. If the wavelength
is less than the width of the duct, the sound attenuation is improved as
compared to a straight duct of equivalent length.

A lined bend is not acoustically effective unless the lining extends at least
three (preferably four) transverse duct dimensions downstream and
upstream. Normally right-angle square or rectangular bends are fabricated
with turning vanes to reduce turbulence noise generated by the flow around
the bend.
Fig 15 Laying of acoustic material in
a bend
Fig 14 Propagation of sound
waves around an
unlined 90
Acoustical material

Louver or splitter silencers

A louver or splitter divides a large area of flowing gas into smaller and
narrower passages. It is a short silencer with large cross-sectional area.
Absorptive materials are often installed within a splitter or louver to improve
sound absorption performance. Acoustic louvers are used at the inlet and
outlet of large air handling system. They are also frequently used in acoustic
enclosures where a requirement for ventilation exists. Usually the main flow
direction is altered by the louver to block the direct line of sight noise
transmission from an interior noise source to the ambient environment.

Plenum chambers

When large values of sound attenuation are required, a sound absorption
plenum chamber will often be advantageous. A plenum chamber (Fig. 16) is
a chamber with a large volume and large cross section between two smaller
ducts that are located at opposite ends and usually offset to minimize the
direct transmission of sound.
The inside of the plenum chamber is lined with sound-absorbing material that
absorbs most of the sound energy as it is reflected back and forth from wall
to wall. The acoustic attenuation or insertion loss of a plenum is given by:

Fig 16 Diagram of plenum chamber

log 10
S d


where IL is the attenuation, dB
is the plenum exit area, m


is the total plenum wall area, m

is the absorption coefficient of the lining material
d is the distance between the entrance and exit, m
is the angle of incidence at the exit

For sound frequencies sufficiently high so that the wavelength of sound is
less than any of the plenum dimensions (height, width, or length), the above
equation is accurate within a few decibels. At lower frequencies, when the
wavelength of sound becomes greater than the plenum dimensions, the
above equation is conservative and the actual attenuation exceeds the
calculated value by 5 to 10 decibels.


Consider a 3 m x 3 m plenum lined with a sound absorbing material, having
an absorption coefficient of 0.6 at 1,000 Hz. The plenum is attached to a 0.6
m x 0.6 m square duct. What is the expected insertion loss in the 1,000 Hz
band from this plenum?

0.6 m


0.6 m

3 m

= 0.6

= 0.6 x 0.6 = 0.36 m

= 6 x [3 x 3] 2 x 0.36 = 53.28 m

d =

+ 2.4

= 3.84 m

4 . 2
( tan
= = 38.7

Using Equation (46),

dB IL 21 ]
28 . 53 6 . 0
6 . 0 1
84 . 3 2
7 . 38 cos
( 36 . 0
log[ 10



Reactive or Reflective Silencers

Reactive or reflective silencers consist of one or more non-dissipative
elements arranged either in parallel or in series. Typical elements include
expansion chambers, side-branch resonators, and perforated tubes.

The primary function of reactive silencers is to reflect sound waves toward
the source. Energy is dissipated in the extended flow path resulting from
internal reflections, and by absorption at the source.

Reactive silencers are used for low-frequency applications where dissipative
silencers are ineffective and in cases where eventual disintegration of
absorptive materials may occur. In general reactive silencers are used for
fixed speed machinery producing pure tones. They are tuned devices and
there will be some frequencies at which they are very effective and others at
which they have no beneficial effect.

A common practice is to combine a number of reactive elements in series or
in parallel to provide a more uniform transmission loss over a specified
frequency range.

Expansion chamber

The simplest kind of reactive muffler is the expansion chamber, where the
duct opens into a large volume, creating an abrupt change in cross-sectional
area at each end of the volume (Fig. 17).

sound Transmitted
Fig 17 Geometry of an expansion chamber muffler

Expansion chambers operate most efficiently in applications involving
discrete frequencies rather than broad band noise. The length of the
chamber is adjusted so that the reflected waves cancel the incident waves.
They can be used in a piping system, such as an exhaust system, an air
supply system, or the suction line of a compressor.

The transmission loss through an expansion chamber is defined as the
difference in sound pressure level of the incident sound wave and the
transmitted sound pressure level. It may be estimated from:

sin ] [
1 log[ 10
2 2

+ = TL (47)

where TL is the transmission loss, dB
is the cross-sectional area of the chamber, m

E is the cross-sectional area of the inlet to the chamber, m

Lc is the length of the chamber, m
is the wavelength of sound, m.

The above equation is valid for the cross-sectional dimension less than one
wavelength for the frequency of sound interest. Note that when the length of
the expansion chamber is equal to /2, 3/2 etc the transmission loss will
be zero.

The following rules apply for the design of expansion chamber mufflers.

The greater the area ratio of S
to S
, the greater the TL.

The length of the chamber controls the frequency at which there is a
maximum attenuation.

Increasing the mean flow-velocity through the muffler up to 30 m/s
tends to increase the TL.

Large chamber walls should be avoided because they tend to vibrate
and radiate noise.

The maximum TL is 40 dB with sheet metal construction. The TL
would be higher for cast iron or other heavy construction.

When a number of discrete frequencies must be attenuated, several
expansion chambers can be placed in series, each tuned to a
particular wavelength.


Estimate the transmission loss of a cylindrical expansion chamber (Lc = 0.25
m, diameter = 0.2 m). The predominant frequency of the chamber noise is
250 Hz, the exhaust part has a diameter of 0.08 m, and the temperature of
the exhaust is 80

At 80
C, the speed of sound is:
80 273 20 + =
= 376 m/s

5 . 1
= = =

2 3 2
10 03 . 5 )
08 . 0
( m x S

= =

2 2
0314 . 0 )
2 . 0
( m S
= =

Using equation (47),

dB 9 ]
5 . 1
25 . 0 2
sin )
0314 . 0
10 03 . 5
10 03 . 5
0314 . 0
1 log[ 10
2 2

+ =


Reactive or cavity or Helmholtz resonators

A reactive or cavity resonator (Fig 18) is a vessel containing a volume of air
that is connected to a noise source such as a piping system through a neck.
When a pure-tone sound wave is propagated along the pipe, the air in the
vessel expands and contracts. By proper design of the area and length of the
neck, and volume of the chamber, sound wave cancellation can be obtained,
thereby reducing the tone.


Fig 18 Cavity resonator

Reactive resonators can be designed to produce a maximum reduction over
a very narrow frequency range. They are normally located in side branches
and for this reason they do not affect the flow in the main pipe.
The sound absorption is obtained as a result of the tiny slug of air in the neck
of the opening being forced to oscillate at a frequency determined by the size
of the opening and the volume of the enclosed cavity.

The resonant frequency can be calculated from the approximate expression:

S v
= (48)

where f

is the resonant frequency, Hz
v is the speed of sound, m/s
is the cross-sectional area of the neck, m

L is the length of the neck, m
Is the effective length of the neck = S L 8 . 0 + , m
is the volume of the cavity, m

It is possible to combine several resonators on a piping system so that not
only will each cancel out at its own frequency, but they can be made to
overlap so that noise is attenuated over a wider range instead of at sharply
tuned points.


Design a Helmholtz resonator to reduce a 500-Hz noise component in an air
pipeline. Use l = 0.013 m, S = 0.16x10
, = 340 m/s.

S v

3 3
2 3
10 144 . 0
) 500 1416 . 3 2 ( 013 . 0
340 10 16 . 0
) 2 (
f l
v S



3 3
10 9 . 2 10 16 . 0 8 . 0 013 . 0 8 . 0

= = = S l L m

Dispersive or Diffuser Silencers

Dispersive or diffuser silencers are pressure-reducing devices that fit in the
downstream of an orifice or constriction in a piping system.

They may be used to reduce noise from control valves, outlet nozzles and
blow-off lines. They are also called pneumatic silencers.

Dispersive silencers act to drop the gas pressure, hence reducing the velocity
and straighten the flow, reducing the turbulence which is the prime cause of
aerodynamically induced noise.

Since the jet sound intensity is proportional to the eighth power of the jet
velocity, a small reduction in velocity can reduce the noise levels
substantially. These silencers usually have the form of a slotted or perforated
metal cage or a covering of porous materials around the exit of an air line.

Diffuser silencer

The diffuser silencer encloses a high-velocity jet and distributes the flow over
many areas at a reduced velocity. In practice, the diffusion mechanism is
achieved by using a porous product such as sintered metal or plastic, wire
mesh or screens, compacted metal nodules, etc.

The restricted flow of the diffuser silencer causes a back pressure in the flow
stream and reduces the jet velocities. In cases where large back pressure
and time of discharge can be tolerated, very large noise reductions up to 30
dBA are possible by increasing the flow resistance of the silencer.

Expansion chamber silencer

Expansion chamber silencers are used where little back pressure can be
tolerated. The noise control is achieved by enclosing the jet and letting the
high-flow discharge gas expand into a large chamber. The gas is then
discharged through many small holes or diffusers at a greatly reduced

Multiple jet diffusers

Multiple jet diffuser silencers replace a single large orifice by several smaller
parallel orifices. Less noise is generated because of the reduction in thrust
and turbulent.

Restrictive flow diffuser

The restrictive flow diffuser makes use of a screen or mesh placed in the
nozzle orifice to reduce the jet flow velocity. A large decrease in sound
pressure level is achieved at the expense of jet thrust.

Absorptive lined shroud

This makes use of an acoustically absorptive lined shroud to quiet the jet
noise. The principle of noise reduction is that the lining absorbs the noise
energy through multiple reflections in the shroud.

This type of silencer is most effective in reducing the high frequency
components of the jet noise.


Air shroud silencers replace a simple tubular mouthpiece by a dual flow
mouthpiece. In this mouthpiece, part of the air moves at a lower speed
outside the central jet stream. The noise level is greatly reduced as the
speed of the jet stream in relation to the speed of the surrounding air is

General Considerations

Temperature effect

The performance data of silencers often assume that they are operating at
about ambient temperature and pressure. Care is required if the application
involves gases at much higher operating conditions as the speed of sound
increases with temperature.

Air inlet conditions

Air has the natural tendency to follow the outside of bends and hence more
air will pass through the passageways near the outside of the duct. Pressure
drop across the silencers and the noise generated will have to be taken into
consideration. Corrections should be made for the pressure loss of the
silencers and also the increased noise.

Attenuator contamination

Silencers used in extract systems handling dust, corrosive gases, oil vapours
must be selected with care because certain equipment or process may
require silencers manufactured from non-corrosive materials. It is also
necessary during design stage to make provision for occasional cleaning of
the system.


Active control of noise is the process of reducing existing noise by the
introduction of additional noise. The additional noise may be introduced by
any one or a combination of different mechanisms.

The most common mechanism is that of noise cancellation, where the
introduced control sound is anti-phase to the original sound and cancellation
results. Active noise control can be applied to low frequency tonal noise such
as exist in a cabin and headset, or broad band noise such as in ducts.

The basic concept of active noise control is illustrated in Fig. 19. A reference
or input microphone monitors the primary noise and converts the sound
pressure to an electrical signal. This signal is then sent to a controller where
a new signal is generated. This control signal activates a control source
(loudspeaker) which produces destructive interference with the undesired
noise. An error sensor detects the residual sound after control and feedback
an error signal to the controller, which adjusts or modifies the control signal to
optimize the cancellation process.

Input signal Error signal
Control source
Error microphone Reference microphone Primary noise
Fig. 19 Active noise control system