Acoustic Intensity by Intuition

date April 24, 1985
comments no comments.

Wednesday, April 24, 1985 12:00 p.m.

Professor J.E. White
Department of Geophysics
Colorado School of Mines

For a plane sinusoidal acoustic wave, we know that average intensity is directed perpendicular to the wave front and uniform in magnitude. For two identical plane waves at right angles, intensity must be directed at 45° and be increased by √2. Wrong! For a standing wave, we realize that average intensity is zero. For two standing waves at right angles, the average intensity must surely be zero. Wrong again! Measurements in a 4-ft by 8-ft enclosure confirmed the circulating flow of energy which can exist. In an elastic solid, average intensity is perpendicular to the wave front for both compressional and shear plane waves. When a plane shear wave and a plane compressional wave at the same frequency travel in the same direction, one would expect the direction of average energy flow to be perpendicular to the wave fronts. Actually, the direction of average intensity as a function of distance oscillates about the perpendicular. It is clear that intuition based on linear theory may lead one astray when applied to a nonlinear phenomenon like intensity.