Effect of frequency and gas composition

The medium in which a sound wave is travelling does not always respond adiabatically, and as a result the speed of sound can vary with frequency.[11] The limitations of the concept of speed of sound due to extreme attenuation are also of concern. The attenuation which exists at sea level for high frequencies applies to successively lower frequencies as atmospheric pressure decreases, or as the mean free path increases. For this reason, the concept of speed of sound (except for frequencies approaching zero) progressively loses its range of applicability at high altitudes.:[4] The standard equations for the speed of sound apply with reasonable accuracy only to situations in which the wavelength of the soundwave is considerably longer than the mean free path of molecules in a gas. The molecular composition of the gas contributes both as the mass (M) of the molecules, and their heat capacities, and so both have an influence on speed of sound. In general, at the same molecular mass, monatomic gases have slightly higher sound speeds (over 9% higher) because they have a higher (5/3 = 1.66...) than diatomics do (7/5 = 1.4). Thus, at the same molecular mass, the sound speed of a monatomic gas goes up by a factor of = 1.091... This gives the 9% difference, and would be a typical ratio for sound speeds at room temperature in helium vs. deuterium, each with a molecular weight of 4. Sound travels faster in helium than deuterium because adiabatic compression heats helium more, since the helium molecules can store heat ener y from compression only in translation, but not rotation. Thus helium molecules (monatomic molecules) travel faster in a sound wave and transmit sound faster. (Sound generally travels at about 70% of the mean molecular speed in gases). Note that in this example we have assumed that temperature is low enough that heat capacities are not influenced by molecular vibration (see heat capacity). However, vibrational modes simply cause gammas which decrease toward 1, since vibration modes in a polyatomic gas gives the gas additional ways to store heat which do not affect temperature, and thus do not affect molecular velocity and sound velocity. Thus, the effect of higher temperatures and vibrational heat capacity acts to increase the difference between sound speed in monatomic vs. polyatomic molecules, with the speed remaining greater in monatomics. In physics, the mean free path is the average distance travelled by a moving particle (such as an atom, a molecule, a photon) between successive impacts (collisions) [1] which modify its direction or energy or other particle properties. Imagine a beam of particles being shot through a target, and consider an infinitesimally thin slab of the target (Figure 1). The atoms (or particles) that might stop a beam particle are shown in red. The magnitude of the mean free path depends on the characteristics of the system the particle is in: Where is the mean free path, n is the number of target particles per unit volume, and is the effective cross sectional area for collision.