Particle acceleration

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In a compressible sound transmission medium - mainly air - air particles get an accelerated motion: the particle acceleration or sound acceleration with the symbol a in metre/second2. In acoustics or physics, acceleration (symbol: a) is defined as the rate of change (or time derivative) of velocity. It is thus a vector quantity with dimension length/time2. In SI units, this is m/s2.

To accelerate an object (air particle) is to change its velocity over a period. Acceleration is defined technically as "the rate of change of velocity of an object with respect to time" and is given by the equation


  • a is the acceleration vector
  • v is the velocity vector expressed in m/s
  • t is time expressed in seconds.

This equation gives a the units of m/(s·s), or m/s2 (read as "metres per second per second", or "metres per second squared").

An alternative equation is:


is the average acceleration (m/s2)

is the initial velocity (m/s)

is the final velocity (m/s)

is the time interval (s)

Transverse acceleration (perpendicular to velocity) causes change in direction. If it is constant in magnitude and changing in direction with the velocity, we get a circular motion. For this centripetal acceleration we have

One common unit of acceleration is g-force, one g being the acceleration caused by the gravity of Earth.

In classical mechanics, acceleration is related to force and mass (assumed to be constant) by way of Newton's second law:

Equations in terms of other measurements[edit]

The Particle acceleration of the air particles a in m/s2 of a plain sound wave is:

Symbol Units Meaning
a m/s2 particle acceleration
v m/s particle velocity
δ m, meters particle displacement
= 2 · · f radians/s angular frequency
f Hz, hertz frequency
p Pa, pascals sound pressure
Z N·s/m3 acoustic impedance
J W/m2 sound intensity
E W·s/m3 sound energy density
Pac W, watts sound power or acoustic power
A m2 area

See also[edit]

External links[edit]