Nonlinear Acoustics

Nonlinear acoustics is the study of loud sounds. Take the sound of a 4th of July firecracker, for example. If you make acoustical predictions of firecracker sounds using a conventional linear acoustics model, your predictions may be off many dB. This is because loud sounds do not obey the linear acoustics model.

Often time domain approaches are used to study nonlinear acoustics. This is because nonlinear systems transfer energy between different frequency components, and its simply easier to deal with this transfer in the time domain rather than in the frequency domain.

Some common devices which use nonlinear acoustics are: ultrasonic cleaners, ultrasonic humidifiers, parametric arrays (important for sending and receiving sound in the ocean), and lithotripters (these are the devices which medical doctors use to pulverize kidney stones using acoustic waves, making surgery unnecessary). An understanding of nonlinear acoustics is also important in predicting sonic booms.

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© 1995, 1996, Victor W. Sparrow.
Most recent update: 08/12/97
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