Formation of Standing Waves

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What is a standing wave?

  • A standing wave is a wave which is formed when a medium, such as a piece of string or a slinky, is vibrated with both ends fixed in position.
  • No energy is transferred from either end of the medium.
  • A standing wave can only occur when the medium is vibrated at certain frequencies, dependant on the length and tension of the medium.
  • These different frequencies cause different harmonics, or overtones, to be produced (as shown on the next card).
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How is a standing wave formed?

  • A standing wave is formed when two waves travelling in opposite directions with identical or similar frequencies and amplitudes meet and interfere with each other.
  • This causes interference at various points, with destructive interference forming an antinode, where there is no displacement, and constructive interference forming a node, where there is maximum displacement from the equilibrium position.
  • The easiest way to continuously create these conditions is to have a wave reflected from either side of a piece of string.
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