Collaboratie Research Stories
"Using Flames to Visualize Sound Waves"
Jeff LaJeunesse '13 of Green Bay, WI, Physics & Math Majors
Jon DesChane '12 of Wauwatosa, WI, Physics & Math Majors
Dr. Erik Brekke, Physics Department & Atomic Physics Research Specialist
Research Project Description
-Our project’s title “Using Flames to Visualize Sound
Waves”, explains our research in a simple and effective way. The theory behind
it involves basic physics concepts about sound waves such as: frequency,
wavelength, and resonance. The use of flames helps to visualize the effect of
sound waves moving through a medium. In our Rubens tube, the medium the sound
is moving through is propane gas and, when lit, that gas helps to visualize how
the sound is affecting the gas as it passes through.
- The actual tube itself serves as a sound chamber for
the sound waves to bounce off of and one-hundred and twenty sixteenth inch holes
drilled in a line on top of the tube allow propane gas to leak from the tank
and then produce flames. Both ends of the tube are capped with a rubber
material which enables sound vibrations to enter the tube. Mounted at one end
of the tube is a three inch diameter speaker that introduces different sound
waves into the tube. When the tube is filled with propane and lit, the flames
coming out will all be the same height. When sound waves are played through the
tube, fluctuations of pressure are created and when resonant frequencies are
achieved, waves in the flames are visible outside of the tube.
Background of Project
-We became interested in the project after seeing
various videos on how a Rubens tube can be used to visualize sound waves. We figured
that building one would be relatively simple and that the scientific theory
behind it would be easily manipulated. Since we are both interested in
engineering, we decided that hypothesizing and building a Rubens tube would be
a great chance for us to gain hands on experience applying our knowledge of
physics theory to a real life system.
-The major thing we gained from this project was how to
apply theory to actual real life systems. We gained valuable experience while
building and adjusting the Rubens tube to make it work. As everyone finds out,
applying theory to real life systems and building those systems doesn’t always
go as planned. Experience overcoming these various problems will be extremely
helpful to us when we encounter other problems in the future.
-This project relates to our studies at SNC in that we
applied concepts of sound waves that we learned in class to a real life system.
This is will be very helpful to our future plans because we are both interested
in engineering and applying theory to real life systems is what engineering is
-What others can take from this is that physics can be
applied to basically everything around us in some form or another. This project
in particular helps people to understand how sound moves through air by
fluctuations of pressure.
-The outcome of this research project was to gain
applicable experience in our field of interest. Currently, we don’t have any
plans to publicize our discoveries because the main goal of our project was to
be able to build a real life system that expressed scientific theory. From
here, we have discussed the possibility of using our Rubens tube to investigate
further concepts such as wave interference.
This project was really initiated by these two students, who
had a strong interest in putting their physics knowledge to use and
engineering/constructing a useful and fun demonstration. I was able to help them plan the equipment
needed, and direct them to good resources for understanding the physics
involved. Of course there was plenty of
troubleshooting with the equipment while it was being built and tested. The project turned out very well, providing a
wonderful demonstration and helping to illustrate the physics behind wave
interference in a very clear and fun manner.