What is Mechanical wave: Definition and 18 Discussions

A mechanical wave is a wave that is an oscillation of matter, and therefore transfers energy through a medium. While waves can move over long distances, the movement of the medium of transmission—the material—is limited. Therefore, the oscillating material does not move far from its initial equilibrium position. Mechanical waves transport energy. This energy propagates in the same direction as the wave. Any kind of wave (mechanical or electromagnetic) has a certain energy. Mechanical waves can be produced only in media which possess elasticity and inertia.
A mechanical wave requires an initial energy input. Once this initial energy is added, the wave travels through the medium until all its energy is transferred. In contrast, electromagnetic waves require no medium, but can still travel through one.
One important property of mechanical waves is that their amplitudes are measured in an unusual way, displacement divided by (reduced) wavelength. When this gets comparable to unity, significant nonlinear effects such as harmonic generation may occur, and, if large enough, may result in chaotic effects. For example, waves on the surface of a body of water break when this dimensionless amplitude exceeds 1, resulting in a foam on the surface and turbulent mixing.
There are three types of mechanical waves: transverse waves, longitudinal waves, and surface waves, etc. Some of the most common examples of mechanical waves are water waves, sound waves, and seismic waves.

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  1. bubble-flow

    Oscillation of a particle inside water caused by a sound wave

    I don't really know where to start as this is not exactly my homework and I finished school some 15 years ago. I looked into my old high school notes, the last time I ever had anything about mechanical waves and sound. Unfortunately, we never learned anything about sound waves causing...
  2. B

    Horizontal propagated movement of mechanical wave

    Homework Statement A hand induces a transverse wave in a string by periodically moving up and down. This causes the string to move up and down. This movement propagates through the string producing a series of wavefronts which move towards the fixed wall with a velocity v. How do we...
  3. N

    A rope of mass m and length L is hanging from the ceiling.

    Homework Statement Part C: Find fundamental frequency. Homework Equations Tension(y) = μgy v(y) = sqrt(gy) Time it takes to travel from bottom to top = t_up = 2srqt(L/g) The Attempt at a Solution I found part A and B, which are tension and velocity. I don't know how to find part C because...
  4. Toby_phys

    Mechanical wave reflection at a boundary

    Homework Statement Homework Equations The right hand section (A) has an incident and reflected wave $$y_1=Ae^{i(kx+\omega t)} +A'e^{i(-kx+\omega t)} $$ The middle section (B) has a transmission reflected wave $$y_2=Be^{i(k_2x+\omega t)} +B'e^{i(-k_2x+\omega t)}$$ Section (C) just has the...
  5. Nikhil Rajagopalan

    Deriving the progressive mechanical wave equation

    Is it correct to state that a progressive wave, originates when a simple harmonic motion is imparted continuously to adjacent particles from one direction to another moving with a velocity v. Using this idea, substituting (t - x/v) instead of t is the simple harmonic motion function...
  6. S

    Transmission of mechanical wave on two different ropes

    Homework Statement Two infinite ropes, rope 1 and rope 2, of same linear density ##\mu=0.1 kg/m## have the same tension ##T=100N## and lie on the same plane, one perpendicular to the other. The two ropes are connected in the origin. On one of the two branches of rope 1 an harmonic wave is...
  7. kelvin490

    How can shock waves travel faster than sound?

    Shock wave is caused by the disturbance of air by the airplane. When it propagate the mechanism should be the same as that of longitudinal sound wave. Why sometimes it can travel faster than sound? (also see: http://physics.info/shock/ )
  8. kelvin490

    Analysis of Standing Waves on a Fixed-End String

    By considering the superposition of two waves propagating through a string, one representing the original or incident wave and the other representing the wave reflected at the fixed end, if both ends of the string is fixed then the waves can reflected and travel back and forth. Standing wave can...
  9. kelvin490

    Why Does a Wave Reflect at a Free End with Unchanged Polarity?

    A wave pulse on a string moving from left to right towards a free end will reflect and propagates from right to left with the same speed and amplitude as the incident wave, and with the same polarity. My question is, why the slope and the vertical force must be zero at the free end? If the...
  10. A

    Wave function for transverse waves on a rope

    Homework Statement Serway's Physics for Sciencetists and Engineers with Modern Physics, 9th Edition (current), Chapter 16, problem 19:[/B] (a) Write the expression for y as a function of x and t in SI units for a sinusoidal wave traveling along a rope in the negative x direction with the...
  11. morrobay

    In Mechanical Wave v = w/k. EM wave w/k = c. How Equated ?

    With ω/k = 2π/T / 2π/λ = velocity for both transverse mechanical waves and EM waves. I can understand velocity as distance over time in mechanical wave. But how is the ratio Em/Bm = ω/k = c. That is the maximum amplitudes of the E and B fields in the y and z planes corresponding to c in...
  12. davidbenari

    Can We Calculate the Momentum of a Mechanical Wave?

    I haven't seen differential equations yet so please do not answer at that level. Suppose I'm on the beach, in the water, and some wave crashes against me. Can we talk about the momentum of that wave as being just the mass of the bump times the velocity of the wave? Can we speak of...
  13. S

    Local Conservation of Energy in Superposition of Mechanical Wave Pulses

    Hi All, First off, thanks to all the old hands at physicsforums, you guys are truly an amazing resource. I was thinking about a system today that at first glance, appears to violate local conservation of energy for two mechanical wave pulses interfering with each other. Consider a...
  14. S

    Determine the amplitude of a mechanical wave given only it's velocity and period

    Homework Statement A transverse sinusiodal wave on a string has a period T= 25.0 ms and travels in the negative x direction with a speed of 30.0 m/s. At t=0, an element of the string at x=0 has a transverse position of 2.00 cm and is traveling downward with a speed of 2.00 m/s. Homework...
  15. T

    Mechanical wave propagation (diffraction / reflection)

    Excuse me if this question is obvious. Do mechanical waves propagate through loudspeaker diaphragms (whether they be elastic or rigid) in the same way that acoustic waves propagate through waveguides albeit a different medium? As far as I understand, reflections occur at the boundaries of the...
  16. M

    Tsunami Waves & Mechanical Wave Physics

    Hi, I was wondering if anybody is in a position to resolve some questions about tsunami waves as they relate to the general physics of mechanical waves. I will briefly try to outline the issues: 1. The energy of a mechanical wave, i.e. one dependent on the physical interaction of the...
  17. P

    What must be present for the propagation of a mechanical wave?

    What must be present for the propagation of a mechanical wave?
  18. G

    Reflection of a mechanical wave

    when a mechanical wave is reflected by a fixed support it experiences a phase change of pi ... without getting into maths can i qualitatively prove this ? i cannot analyse how the forces will be acting .