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STANDING

WAVES
The blue wave is moving to the right and
the green wave is moving to the left. As
is the case in any situation in which two
waves meet while moving along the
same medium, interference occurs. The
blue wave and the green wave interfere
to form a new wave pattern known as
the resultant. The resultant in the
animation below is shown in black. The
resultant is merely the result of the two
individual waves - the blue wave and the
green wave - added together in
accordance with the principle of
superposition.
The result of the interference of the two
waves above is a new wave pattern
known as a standing wave pattern.
Standing waves are
produced whenever two
waves of identical
frequency interfere with
one another while
traveling opposite
directions along the
same medium.

Standing wave patterns are
characterized by certain fixed
points along the medium
which undergo no
displacement. These points of
no displacement are
called nodes.
(Nodes can be remembered
as points of no displacement).
The nodal positions are labeled by
an N in the animation above. The
nodes are always located at the
same location along the medium,
giving the entire pattern an
appearance of standing still (thus
the name "standing waves").
A careful inspection of the animation will
reveal that the nodes are the result of the
destructive interference of the two interfering
waves. At all times and at all nodal points,
the blue wave and the green wave interfere
to completely destroy each other, thus
producing a node.

Midway between every consecutive nodal point are
points which undergo maximum displacement. These
points are called antinodes; the anti-nodal nodal
positions are labeled by an AN. Antinodes are points
along the medium which oscillate back and forth
between a large positive displacement and a
large negative displacement. A careful inspection of
the above animation will reveal that the antinodes are
the result of the constructive interference of the two
interfering waves.

Standing Waves on String
There are a variety of
patterns which could be
produced by vibrations within
a string, slinky, or rope. Each
pattern corresponds to
vibrations which occur at a
particular frequency and is
known as a harmonic.

Standing Waves on String
The lowest possible frequency at
which a string could vibrate to form a
standing wave pattern is known as the
fundamental frequency or the first
harmonic. An animation of a string vibrating
with the first harmonic is shown below.

The frequency associated with each harmonic
is dependent upon the speed at which waves
move through the medium and the
wavelength of the medium.
The speed at which waves move through a
medium is dependent upon the properties of
the medium (tension of the string, thickness of
the string, material composition of the string,
etc.).
The wavelength of the harmonic is dependent
upon the length of the string and the harmonic
number (first, second, third, etc.).
Variations in either the properties of the
medium or the length of the medium will result
in variations in the frequency at which the
string will vibrate.

Second Harmonic
The second lowest frequency at which a
string could vibrate is known as the second
harmonic; the third lowest frequency is known
as the third harmonic; and so on. An
animation of a string vibrating with the
second harmonic is shown below.

Third
Harmonic


Fourth
Harmonic


Fifth Harmonic
Harmonics
There is a predictability about this mathematical
relationship that allows one to generalize and
deduce a statement concerning this relationship. To
illustrate, consider the first harmonic standing wave
pattern for a vibrating rope as shown below.
One complete wave in a standing wave pattern
consists of two loops. Thus, one loop is equivalent
to one-half of a wavelength.



First Harmonic
In comparing the standing wave pattern
for the first harmonic with its single loop
to the diagram of a complete wave, it is
evident that there is only one-half of a
wave stretching across the length of the
string. That is, the length of the string is
equal to one-half the length of a wave.
Put in the form of an equation:

Second Harmonic
Now consider the string being
vibrated with a frequency that
establishes the standing wave
pattern for the second harmonic.

The second harmonic pattern
consists of two anti-nodes. Thus,
there are two loops within the length
of the string. Since each loop is
equivalent to one-half a wavelength,
the length of the string is equal to
two-halves of a wavelength. Put in
the form of an equation:

Third Harmonic
The same reasoning pattern can be
applied to the case of the string
being vibrated with a frequency that
establishes the standing wave
pattern for the third harmonic.

The third harmonic pattern consists
of three anti-nodes. Thus, there are
three loops within the length of the
string. Since each loop is equivalent
to one-half a wavelength, the length
of the string is equal to three-halves
of a wavelength. Put in the form of
an equation:

Harmonics
The number of antinodes in the
pattern shown in the first 3
harmonics is equal to
the harmonic number of that
pattern.
first harmonic has one antinode;
the second harmonic has two
antinodes; and
the third harmonic has three
antinodes.

Harmonics
Thus, it can be generalized that the nth
harmonic has n antinodes where n is an
integer representing the harmonic
number. Furthermore, one notices that
there are n halves wavelengths present
within the length of the string. Put in the
form of an equation:

Harmonics Length-Wavelength
Relationship
Harmonic Pattern # of loops
Length-Wavelength
Relationship
1
st
1
L = 1/2
2
nd
2
L = 2/2

3
rd
3
L = 3/2

4
th
4
L = 4/2

5
th
5
L = 5/2

6
th
6
L = 6/2

nth n
L = n/2

Illustrative Example # 1
1. Suppose that a string is 1.2
meters long and vibrates in
the first, second and third
harmonic standing wave
patterns. Determine the
wavelength of the waves for
each of the three patterns.

Solution
First harmonic: L = ()
= 2(1.2 m) = 2.4 m
Second harmonic: L = (2/2)
= 1(1.2 m) = 1.2 m
Third harmonic: L = (3/2)
= 2/3(1.2 m) = 0.8 m

Illustrative Example # 2
2. The string is 1.5 meters long
and is vibrating as the first
harmonic. The string vibrates
up and down with 33
complete vibrational cycles in
10 seconds. Determine the
frequency, period, wavelength
and speed for this wave.

Solution
Given: L = 1.5 m; no. of waves = 33 cycles; t
= 10 s
Find: a) f; b) T; c) ; d) v
a) The frequency refers to how often a point on the
medium undergoes back-and-forth vibrations; it is
measured as the number of cycles per unit of time.
In this case, it is
f = (33 cycles) / (10 seconds) = 3.3 Hz
b) The period is the reciprocal of the frequency.
T = 1/f = 1/ (3.3 Hz) = 0.303 s
The string is 1.5 meters long and is vibrating as the
first harmonic. The string vibrates up and down
with 33 complete vibrational cycles in 10 seconds.
Determine the frequency, period, wavelength and
speed for this wave.
Solution
Given: L = 1.5 m; no. of waves = 33 cycles; t = 10 s
Find: a) f; b) T; c) ; d) v
c)The wavelength of the wave is related to the length of
the rope. For the first harmonic as pictured in this
problem, the length of the rope is equivalent to one-
half of a wavelength. That is, L = .
= 2 L = 2 (1.5 m) = 3.0 m
d) The speed of a wave can be calculated from its
wavelength and frequency using the wave equation:
v = f = (3.3 Hz) (3. 0 m) = 9.9 m/s

The string is 1.5 meters long and is vibrating as
the first harmonic. The string vibrates up and
down with 33 complete vibrational cycles in 10
seconds. Determine the frequency, period,
wavelength and speed for this wave.
Solution
Given: L = 1.5 m
Find: a) f; b) T; c) and d) v

a) f = 33 cycles/10 s = 3.3 Hz
b) T = 1/f = 1/ 3.3Hz = 0.303 s
c) = 2(L) = 2 (1.5m) = 3.0 m
d) v = f = (3 m)(3.3Hz) = 9.9 m/s
The string is 1.5 meters long and is vibrating as the first
harmonic. The string vibrates up and down with 33 complete
vibrational cycles in 10 seconds. Determine the frequency,
period, wavelength and speed for this wave.
Solve the following.
1. A string is 6.0 meters long and is vibrating
as the third harmonic. The string vibrates up
and down with 45 complete vibrational
cycles in 10 seconds. Determine the
frequency, period, wavelength and speed for
this wave.
2. A string is 5.0 meters long and is vibrating
as the fourth harmonic. The string vibrates
up and down with 48 complete vibrational
cycles in 20 seconds. Determine the
frequency, period, wavelength and speed for
this wave.
1. Solution:
Given: L = 6.0 m; no. of waves = 45 cycles; t
= 10 s
Find: a) f; b) T; c) ; d) v
a) f = (45 cycles) / (10 seconds) = 4.5 Hz
b) The period is the reciprocal of the
frequency.
T = 1 / (4.5 Hz) = 0.222 s
c) = (2 / 3) L = (2 / 3) (6.0 m) = 4.0 m
d) The speed of a wave can be calculated
from its wavelength and frequency using the
wave equation:
v = f = (4.5 Hz) (4. 0 m) = 18 m/s

2. Solution
Given: L = 5.0 m; no. of waves = 48 cycles; t =
20 s
Find: a) f; b) T; c) ; d) v
a. The frequency refers to how often a point on
the medium undergoes back-and-forth
vibrations; it is measured as the number of
cycles per unit of time. In this case, it is
f = (48 cycles) / (20 seconds) = 2.4 Hz
b. The period is the reciprocal of the frequency.
T = 1 / (2.4 Hz) = 0.417 s


c. The wavelength of the wave is related to
the length of the rope. For the fourth
harmonic as pictured in this problem, the
length of the rope is equivalent to two full
wavelengths. That is, L = 2 W where W is
the wavelength. Rearranging the equation
and substituting leads to the following
results:
= 0.5 L = 0.5 (5.0 m) = 2.5 m
d. The speed of a wave can be calculated
from its wavelength and frequency using the
wave equation:
v = f = (2.4 Hz) (2.5 m) = 6.0
m/s