• Astrophysics • Electricity • Electromagnetism • Energy • Fields • Force • Mechanics • Momentum • Nuclear Physics • Quantities & Units  • States of Matter • Waves • Key Experiments Have you ever heard of waves that don't move? Yes they exist and are called standing waves. These special waves have a distinct pattern and are only created under certain conditions. In this article, we'll explain what those conditions are and how standing waves work. We'll also talk about harmonics and fundamental frequencies, which are key to understanding this cool concept. Keep reading to learn all about standing waves and their secrets!

## What is a standing wave?

Have you ever heard of a standing or stationary wave? Unlike a traveling wave, the peak amplitude of a standing wave does not move through a medium. Instead, it consists of nodes and antinodes. Nodes are points on the wave that remain still and don't vibrate, while antinodes are where the wave oscillates vertically with maximum amplitude. Take a look at the figure below to see what we mean. In this article, we'll dive deeper into the fascinating world of standing waves and explore their characteristics. Read on to learn more!

Because standing waves do not travel, there is no transfer of energy. The energy of the traveling waves that formed the standing wave is stored within the standing wave.

## Period and frequency of standing waves

When it comes to standing waves, the period refers to the time it takes for an antinode to complete a full cycle of vibration. This means that the antinode oscillates from the maximum above the center line to center line and back. Meanwhile, the frequency of a wave determined by full cycles per second. To find the frequency velocity and wavelength of a wave, we can use the wave equation below. The frequency is measured in hertz, velocity in meters per second, and wavelength in meters. In this article, we'll explore this equation and how to use it to better understand standing waves. Keep reading to learn more!

### Phase difference

The phase difference of different points on a stationary wave depends on the number of nodes between those two points.

If the number of nodes between two points is odd, then the points are out of phase. If the number of nodes between the points is even then the points are in phase.

## How are standing waves created?

A standing wave is a unique pattern of waves that forms when two or more traveling waves with the same frequency, wavelength, and amplitude superpose and move in opposite directions along the same line. This phenomenon occurs when a traveling wave reflects off a boundary and interferes with the original wave. The figure below demonstrates how two identical waves combine to form a standing wave, which can be explained by superposition. Two waves can superpose either constructively, meaning they add up to form a larger wave, or destructively, meaning they cancel each other out to form a smaller wave. When a wave travels down a string with both ends fixed, it reflects and begins interfering with the incoming waves, ultimately forming standing wave with nodes and antinodes at equal spacing over the length of the string. To describe a standing wave mathematically, we can take the superposition of two equivalent traveling waves moving in opposite directions, and apply the sum of angles trigonometric identity to get the formula for a standing wave as a function of position and time. With this knowledge, we can delve deeper into the fascinating world of standing waves and their applications. Keep reading to learn more!

## The amplitude of a standing wave

The amplitude of a standing wave is directly related to its position on the wave. The maximum amplitude is obtained at the antinodes, where the two traveling waves that form the standing wave are in phase and add up to produce a superposition of the two amplitudes. As we move away from the antinodes and towards the nodes, the amplitude decreases until it reaches zero at the node. At the nodes, the two traveling waves are in anti-phase, resulting in no amplitude. Finally, at the next antinode, the waves are again in phase, and the amplitude increases to a maximum. The amplitude of a standing wave can be expressed as A sin(kx), where A is the amplitude coefficient and k is the wave number. As we move from one antinode to the next, the value of sin(kx) changes, causing the amplitude to vary accordingly. Understanding this concept is important for understanding the behavior of standing waves and their applications in fields such as music, acoustics, and physics.

## What are some examples of standing waves?

Below we will look at two examples: sound waves and vibrating strings.

### Sound waves

Sound waves can indeed produce standing waves in air columns, resulting in a unique and fascinating phenomenon. This can be visualized by placing a powder inside an air column and a loudspeaker on one end, which is open. When the loudspeaker produces sound waves, they will travel down the air column and be reflected once they reach the boundary. As a result, we get standing waves at certain frequencies, and the powder inside the air column will be spaced evenly, indicating the position of nodes visually.

This phenomenon is how musical instruments, such as clarinets, work. Clarinets are designed to produce sound by creating standing waves inside the air column of the instrument. The mouthpiece of the clarinet acts as the boundary, and when the player blows air through it, the air column inside the instrument begins to vibrate. The vibrating air column produces sound waves that travel down the instrument and are eventually reflected back. The superposition of the waves produced by the player and the reflected waves inside the clarinet create standing waves at certain frequencies, which produce the distinctive sound of the instrument.

The length of the air column inside the instrument determines the frequencies of the standing waves that can be produced. By changing the length of the air column, the player can produce different notes. This is accomplished by opening or closing keys, which changes the length of the air column and alters the frequencies of the standing waves.

In summary, standing waves can be produced in air columns by sound waves, resulting in a unique and fascinating phenomenon. This is how musical instruments, such as clarinets, work, by creating standing waves inside the air column of the instrument. Understanding this concept is crucial for anyone interested in acoustics, music, or physics.

### Stretched strings

Standing waves can indeed be formed in stretched strings fixed at both ends that are subjected to tension, resulting in a fascinating phenomenon. Let's consider a uniform string of length L. Since the fixed ends cannot move, our standing wave must have nodes at the two ends, and thus our amplitude must be zero on the boundaries. Using our formula for a standing wave, we can express our standing wave amplitude as A sin(kx), which implies that k must satisfy the condition kL=nπ, where n is an integer. This condition arises from the requirement that the amplitude of the wave must be zero at the boundaries.

This condition implies that standing waves will only form at specific frequencies, which are determined by the length and tension of the string. Due to the relationship between the wavelength and the frequency, we also have restrictions on the frequencies. These restrictions result in the formation of harmonics or overtones, which are higher-frequency standing waves that consist of nodes and antinodes at specific intervals along the string. For example, a vibrating string produces sound, which is how some musical instruments, such as violins, pianos, and guitars, work. The first harmonic, or fundamental frequency, consists of a single node and a single antinode. Similarly, a second harmonic, or first overtone, is formed by a higher frequency and consists of three nodes and two antinodes. Finally, a third harmonic, or second overtone, is formed by an even higher frequency and consists of four nodes and three antinodes.

In summary, standing waves can be formed in stretched strings fixed at both ends that are subjected to tension, resulting in a fascinating phenomenon that is crucial for understanding musical instruments such as violins, pianos, and guitars. By understanding the restrictions on the frequencies and wavelengths of standing waves, we can better appreciate the complexity and beauty of these instruments and the physics that underlie them.

By using our restriction on the wavelength and frequency, we can calculate the harmonics.

Find the fourth harmonic frequency. Solution: This is a straightforward application of our formula.

### Differences between traveling and standing waves

While standing and traveling waves have some similar properties, they also have several differences. The table below summarizes the differences between a standing and traveling wave.

Standing Waves - Key takeaways Standing waves are formed by the superposition of two traveling waves that are moving in opposite directions. Standing waves have stationary points known as nodes and vibrate only at specific points known as antinodes. Standing waves can form harmonics, which is a specific wave pattern that is formed by two fixed ends.

## Standing Waves

What are standing waves?

Standing waves are caused by interference of two progressive waves with the same properties, that travel in opposite directions in the same medium.

What is the frequency of a standing wave ?

Standing waves can form at specific frequencies found by applying the boundary conditions to the formula for a standing wave. Different frequencies are given depending on the characteristics of the wave.

What are the causes of standing wave?

Standing waves are caused by superposition of two traveling waves.

What are the characteristics of standing waves?

Standing waves do not transfer energy . They have nodes and antinodes. They points that form a standing wave are either in phase or anti phase. 14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.    Join 10,000+ learners worldwide. The first 14 days are on us 96% of learners report x2 faster learning Free hands-on onboarding & support Cancel Anytime