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University Physics Volume 1

16.5 Interference of Waves

University Physics Volume 116.5 Interference of Waves
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  1. Preface
  2. Unit 1. Mechanics
    1. 1 Units and Measurement
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 The Scope and Scale of Physics
      3. 1.2 Units and Standards
      4. 1.3 Unit Conversion
      5. 1.4 Dimensional Analysis
      6. 1.5 Estimates and Fermi Calculations
      7. 1.6 Significant Figures
      8. 1.7 Solving Problems in Physics
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    2. 2 Vectors
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Scalars and Vectors
      3. 2.2 Coordinate Systems and Components of a Vector
      4. 2.3 Algebra of Vectors
      5. 2.4 Products of Vectors
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    3. 3 Motion Along a Straight Line
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Position, Displacement, and Average Velocity
      3. 3.2 Instantaneous Velocity and Speed
      4. 3.3 Average and Instantaneous Acceleration
      5. 3.4 Motion with Constant Acceleration
      6. 3.5 Free Fall
      7. 3.6 Finding Velocity and Displacement from Acceleration
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    4. 4 Motion in Two and Three Dimensions
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Displacement and Velocity Vectors
      3. 4.2 Acceleration Vector
      4. 4.3 Projectile Motion
      5. 4.4 Uniform Circular Motion
      6. 4.5 Relative Motion in One and Two Dimensions
      7. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    5. 5 Newton's Laws of Motion
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Forces
      3. 5.2 Newton's First Law
      4. 5.3 Newton's Second Law
      5. 5.4 Mass and Weight
      6. 5.5 Newton’s Third Law
      7. 5.6 Common Forces
      8. 5.7 Drawing Free-Body Diagrams
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    6. 6 Applications of Newton's Laws
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Solving Problems with Newton’s Laws
      3. 6.2 Friction
      4. 6.3 Centripetal Force
      5. 6.4 Drag Force and Terminal Speed
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    7. 7 Work and Kinetic Energy
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Work
      3. 7.2 Kinetic Energy
      4. 7.3 Work-Energy Theorem
      5. 7.4 Power
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    8. 8 Potential Energy and Conservation of Energy
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 Potential Energy of a System
      3. 8.2 Conservative and Non-Conservative Forces
      4. 8.3 Conservation of Energy
      5. 8.4 Potential Energy Diagrams and Stability
      6. 8.5 Sources of Energy
      7. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
    9. 9 Linear Momentum and Collisions
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Linear Momentum
      3. 9.2 Impulse and Collisions
      4. 9.3 Conservation of Linear Momentum
      5. 9.4 Types of Collisions
      6. 9.5 Collisions in Multiple Dimensions
      7. 9.6 Center of Mass
      8. 9.7 Rocket Propulsion
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    10. 10 Fixed-Axis Rotation
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Rotational Variables
      3. 10.2 Rotation with Constant Angular Acceleration
      4. 10.3 Relating Angular and Translational Quantities
      5. 10.4 Moment of Inertia and Rotational Kinetic Energy
      6. 10.5 Calculating Moments of Inertia
      7. 10.6 Torque
      8. 10.7 Newton’s Second Law for Rotation
      9. 10.8 Work and Power for Rotational Motion
      10. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    11. 11 Angular Momentum
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Rolling Motion
      3. 11.2 Angular Momentum
      4. 11.3 Conservation of Angular Momentum
      5. 11.4 Precession of a Gyroscope
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    12. 12 Static Equilibrium and Elasticity
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 Conditions for Static Equilibrium
      3. 12.2 Examples of Static Equilibrium
      4. 12.3 Stress, Strain, and Elastic Modulus
      5. 12.4 Elasticity and Plasticity
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    13. 13 Gravitation
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation
      3. 13.2 Gravitation Near Earth's Surface
      4. 13.3 Gravitational Potential Energy and Total Energy
      5. 13.4 Satellite Orbits and Energy
      6. 13.5 Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion
      7. 13.6 Tidal Forces
      8. 13.7 Einstein's Theory of Gravity
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    14. 14 Fluid Mechanics
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 Fluids, Density, and Pressure
      3. 14.2 Measuring Pressure
      4. 14.3 Pascal's Principle and Hydraulics
      5. 14.4 Archimedes’ Principle and Buoyancy
      6. 14.5 Fluid Dynamics
      7. 14.6 Bernoulli’s Equation
      8. 14.7 Viscosity and Turbulence
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
  3. Unit 2. Waves and Acoustics
    1. 15 Oscillations
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 Simple Harmonic Motion
      3. 15.2 Energy in Simple Harmonic Motion
      4. 15.3 Comparing Simple Harmonic Motion and Circular Motion
      5. 15.4 Pendulums
      6. 15.5 Damped Oscillations
      7. 15.6 Forced Oscillations
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    2. 16 Waves
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 Traveling Waves
      3. 16.2 Mathematics of Waves
      4. 16.3 Wave Speed on a Stretched String
      5. 16.4 Energy and Power of a Wave
      6. 16.5 Interference of Waves
      7. 16.6 Standing Waves and Resonance
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    3. 17 Sound
      1. Introduction
      2. 17.1 Sound Waves
      3. 17.2 Speed of Sound
      4. 17.3 Sound Intensity
      5. 17.4 Normal Modes of a Standing Sound Wave
      6. 17.5 Sources of Musical Sound
      7. 17.6 Beats
      8. 17.7 The Doppler Effect
      9. 17.8 Shock Waves
      10. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
  4. A | Units
  5. B | Conversion Factors
  6. C | Fundamental Constants
  7. D | Astronomical Data
  8. E | Mathematical Formulas
  9. F | Chemistry
  10. G | The Greek Alphabet
  11. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
  12. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain how mechanical waves are reflected and transmitted at the boundaries of a medium
  • Define the terms interference and superposition
  • Find the resultant wave of two identical sinusoidal waves that differ only by a phase shift

Up to now, we have been studying mechanical waves that propagate continuously through a medium, but we have not discussed what happens when waves encounter the boundary of the medium or what happens when a wave encounters another wave propagating through the same medium. Waves do interact with boundaries of the medium, and all or part of the wave can be reflected. For example, when you stand some distance from a rigid cliff face and yell, you can hear the sound waves reflect off the rigid surface as an echo. Waves can also interact with other waves propagating in the same medium. If you throw two rocks into a pond some distance from one another, the circular ripples that result from the two stones seem to pass through one another as they propagate out from where the stones entered the water. This phenomenon is known as interference. In this section, we examine what happens to waves encountering a boundary of a medium or another wave propagating in the same medium. We will see that their behavior is quite different from the behavior of particles and rigid bodies. Later, when we study modern physics, we will see that only at the scale of atoms do we see similarities in the properties of waves and particles.

Reflection and Transmission

When a wave propagates through a medium, it reflects when it encounters the boundary of the medium. The wave before hitting the boundary is known as the incident wave. The wave after encountering the boundary is known as the reflected wave. How the wave is reflected at the boundary of the medium depends on the boundary conditions; waves will react differently if the boundary of the medium is fixed in place or free to move (Figure 16.17). A fixed boundary condition exists when the medium at a boundary is fixed in place so it cannot move. A free boundary condition exists when the medium at the boundary is free to move.

Figure a shows two figures of a string attached to a rigid support at the right. The top string is labeled before reflection. A pulse formed at the top of the string propagates towards the right with velocity v subscript i. The bottom string is labeled after reflection. A pulse formed at the bottom of the string propagates towards the left with velocity v subscript R. Figure b shows two figures of a string attached to a ring that is passed through a pole on the right. The top string is labeled before reflection. A pulse formed at the top of the string propagates towards the right with velocity v subscript i. The bottom string is labeled after reflection. A pulse formed at the top of the string propagates towards the left with velocity v subscript R.
Figure 16.17 (a) One end of a string is fixed so that it cannot move. A wave propagating on the string, encountering this fixed boundary condition, is reflected 180°(πrad)180°(πrad) out of phase with respect to the incident wave. (b) One end of a string is tied to a solid ring of negligible mass on a frictionless lab pole, where the ring is free to move. A wave propagating on the string, encountering this free boundary condition, is reflected in phase 0°(0rad)0°(0rad) with respect to the wave.

Part (a) of the Figure 16.17 shows a fixed boundary condition. Here, one end of the string is fixed to a wall so the end of the string is fixed in place and the medium (the string) at the boundary cannot move. When the wave is reflected, the amplitude of the reflected way is exactly the same as the amplitude of the incident wave, but the reflected wave is reflected 180°(πrad)180°(πrad) out of phase with respect to the incident wave. The phase change can be explained using Newton’s third law: Recall that Newton’s third law states that when object A exerts a force on object B, then object B exerts an equal and opposite force on object A. As the incident wave encounters the wall, the string exerts an upward force on the wall and the wall reacts by exerting an equal and opposite force on the string. The reflection at a fixed boundary is inverted. Note that the figure shows a crest of the incident wave reflected as a trough. If the incident wave were a trough, the reflected wave would be a crest.

Part (b) of the figure shows a free boundary condition. Here, one end of the string is tied to a solid ring of negligible mass on a frictionless pole, so the end of the string is free to move up and down. As the incident wave encounters the boundary of the medium, it is also reflected. In the case of a free boundary condition, the reflected wave is in phase with respect to the incident wave. In this case, the wave encounters the free boundary applying an upward force on the ring, accelerating the ring up. The ring travels up to the maximum height equal to the amplitude of the wave and then accelerates down towards the equilibrium position due to the tension in the string. The figure shows the crest of an incident wave being reflected in phase with respect to the incident wave as a crest. If the incident wave were a trough, the reflected wave would also be a trough. The amplitude of the reflected wave would be equal to the amplitude of the incident wave.

In some situations, the boundary of the medium is neither fixed nor free. Consider Figure 16.18(a), where a low-linear mass density string is attached to a string of a higher linear mass density. In this case, the reflected wave is out of phase with respect to the incident wave. There is also a transmitted wave that is in phase with respect to the incident wave. Both the transmitted and the reflected waves have amplitudes less than the amplitude of the incident wave. If the tension is the same in both strings, the wave speed is higher in the string with the lower linear mass density.

Figure a shows two strings, the top one labeled before reflection and the bottom one labeled after reflection. The top string has a pulse labeled incident wave, which propagates to the right with velocity v subscript i. The bottom string has two pulses. The one on the left is labeled transmitted wave. This propagates to the right with velocity v subscript T. The wave on the left is labeled reflected wave. It moves to the left with velocity v subscript R. It has a smaller amplitude from the incident wave and is upside down. Figure b shows two strings, the top one labeled before reflection and the bottom one labeled after reflection. The top string has a pulse labeled incident wave, which propagates to the right with velocity v subscript i. The bottom string has two pulses. The one on the left is labeled transmitted wave and the one on the right is labeled reflected wave. Both are formed at the top of the string.
Figure 16.18 Waves traveling along two types of strings: a thick string with a high linear density and a thin string with a low linear density. Both strings are under the same tension, so a wave moves faster on the low-density string than on the high-density string. (a) A wave moving from a low-density to a high-density medium results in a reflected wave that is 180°(πrad)180°(πrad) out of phase with respect to the incident pulse (or wave) and a transmitted wave that is in phase with the incident wave. (b) When a wave moves from a high-density medium to a low-density medium, both the reflected and transmitted wave are in phase with respect to the incident wave.

Part (b) of the figure shows a high-linear mass density string is attached to a string of a lower linear density. In this case, the reflected wave is in phase with respect to the incident wave. There is also a transmitted wave that is in phase with respect to the incident wave. Both the incident and the reflected waves have amplitudes less than the amplitude of the incident wave. Here you may notice that if the tension is the same in both strings, the wave speed is higher in the string with the lower linear mass density.

Superposition and Interference

Most waves do not look very simple. Complex waves are more interesting, even beautiful, but they look formidable. Most interesting mechanical waves consist of a combination of two or more traveling waves propagating in the same medium. The principle of superposition can be used to analyze the combination of waves.

Consider two simple pulses of the same amplitude moving toward one another in the same medium, as shown in Figure 16.19. Eventually, the waves overlap, producing a wave that has twice the amplitude, and then continue on unaffected by the encounter. The pulses are said to interfere, and this phenomenon is known as interference.

Five figures show the different stages of two pulses moving towards each other. The pulses are far apart at time t1. Both have amplitude A. They move towards each other at time t2, combining into a wave with two peaks. At time t3, they combine into a single wave with amplitude 2A. At time t4, they move apart again, each regaining the amplitude A. They come back to their original positions at time t5.
Figure 16.19 Two pulses moving toward one another experience interference. The term interference refers to what happens when two waves overlap.

To analyze the interference of two or more waves, we use the principle of superposition. For mechanical waves, the principle of superposition states that if two or more traveling waves combine at the same point, the resulting position of the mass element of the medium, at that point, is the algebraic sum of the position due to the individual waves. This property is exhibited by many waves observed, such as waves on a string, sound waves, and surface water waves. Electromagnetic waves also obey the superposition principle, but the electric and magnetic fields of the combined wave are added instead of the displacement of the medium. Waves that obey the superposition principle are linear waves; waves that do not obey the superposition principle are said to be nonlinear waves. In this chapter, we deal with linear waves, in particular, sinusoidal waves.

The superposition principle can be understood by considering the linear wave equation. In Mathematics of a Wave, we defined a linear wave as a wave whose mathematical representation obeys the linear wave equation. For a transverse wave on a string with an elastic restoring force, the linear wave equation is

2y(x,t)x2=1v22y(x,t)t2.2y(x,t)x2=1v22y(x,t)t2.

Any wave function y(x,t)=y(xvt),y(x,t)=y(xvt), where the argument of the function is linear (xvt)(xvt) is a solution to the linear wave equation and is a linear wave function. If wave functions y1(x,t)y1(x,t) and y2(x,t)y2(x,t) are solutions to the linear wave equation, the sum of the two functions y1(x,t)+y2(x,t)y1(x,t)+y2(x,t) is also a solution to the linear wave equation. Mechanical waves that obey superposition are normally restricted to waves with amplitudes that are small with respect to their wavelengths. If the amplitude is too large, the medium is distorted past the region where the restoring force of the medium is linear.

Waves can interfere constructively or destructively. Figure 16.20 shows two identical sinusoidal waves that arrive at the same point exactly in phase. Figure 16.20(a) and (b) show the two individual waves, Figure 16.20(c) shows the resultant wave that results from the algebraic sum of the two linear waves. The crests of the two waves are precisely aligned, as are the troughs. This superposition produces constructive interference. Because the disturbances add, constructive interference produces a wave that has twice the amplitude of the individual waves, but has the same wavelength.

Figure 16.21 shows two identical waves that arrive exactly 180°180° out of phase, producing destructive interference. Figure 16.21(a) and (b) show the individual waves, and Figure 16.21(c) shows the superposition of the two waves. Because the troughs of one wave add the crest of the other wave, the resulting amplitude is zero for destructive interference—the waves completely cancel.

Figures a and b each show a wave with amplitude A and wavelength lambda. They are in phase with one another. Figure a is labeled y1 parentheses x, t parentheses equal to A sine parentheses kx minus omega t parentheses. Figure b is labeled y2 parentheses x, t parentheses equal to A sine parentheses kx minus omega t parentheses. Figure c shows a wave that is in phase with the other two. It has amplitude 2A and wavelength lambda. It is labeled y parentheses x, t parentheses equal to y1 plus y2 equal to 2A sine parentheses kx minus omega t parentheses.
Figure 16.20 Constructive interference of two identical waves produces a wave with twice the amplitude, but the same wavelength.
Figures a and b each show a wave with amplitude A and wavelength lambda. They are out of phase with one another by an angle pi. Figure a is labeled y1 parentheses x, t parentheses equal to A sine parentheses kx minus omega t plus pi parentheses. Figure b is labeled y2 parentheses x, t parentheses equal to A sine parentheses kx minus omega t parentheses. Figure c shows the absence of any wave. It is labeled y parentheses x, t parentheses equal to y1 plus y2 equal to 0.
Figure 16.21 Destructive interference of two identical waves, one with a phase shift of 180°(πrad)180°(πrad), produces zero amplitude, or complete cancellation.

When linear waves interfere, the resultant wave is just the algebraic sum of the individual waves as stated in the principle of superposition. Figure 16.22 shows two waves (red and blue) and the resultant wave (black). The resultant wave is the algebraic sum of the two individual waves.

Figure shows three waves. Two of these, blue and red have y values varying from -10 to plus 10 and the same wavelength. They are slightly out of phase. The third, which is black, has the same wavelength but a larger amplitude. Another figure shows a blown up portion of this graph. At x approximately equal to 0.74, the y values of the red and blue waves are y1 = 8 and y2 = 10 respectively. The y value of the black wave is y1 + y2 = 18. At x equal to 1, the y values of the red and blue waves are both 9.5. The y value of the black wave is y1 + y2 = 19.
Figure 16.22 When two linear waves in the same medium interfere, the height of resulting wave is the sum of the heights of the individual waves, taken point by point. This plot shows two waves (red and blue) added together, along with the resulting wave (black). These graphs represent the height of the wave at each point. The waves may be any linear wave, including ripples on a pond, disturbances on a string, sound, or electromagnetic waves.

The superposition of most waves produces a combination of constructive and destructive interference, and can vary from place to place and time to time. Sound from a stereo, for example, can be loud in one spot and quiet in another. Varying loudness means the sound waves add partially constructively and partially destructively at different locations. A stereo has at least two speakers creating sound waves, and waves can reflect from walls. All these waves interfere, and the resulting wave is the superposition of the waves.

We have shown several examples of the superposition of waves that are similar. Figure 16.23 illustrates an example of the superposition of two dissimilar waves. Here again, the disturbances add, producing a resultant wave.

Figure shows three waves. Wave 1 has larger wavelength and amplitude compared to wave 2. The third wave, labeled resultant wave is irregularly shaped.
Figure 16.23 Superposition of nonidentical waves exhibits both constructive and destructive interference.

At times, when two or more mechanical waves interfere, the pattern produced by the resulting wave can be rich in complexity, some without any readily discernable patterns. For example, plotting the sound wave of your favorite music can look quite complex and is the superposition of the individual sound waves from many instruments; it is the complexity that makes the music interesting and worth listening to. At other times, waves can interfere and produce interesting phenomena, which are complex in their appearance and yet beautiful in simplicity of the physical principle of superposition, which formed the resulting wave. One example is the phenomenon known as standing waves, produced by two identical waves moving in different directions. We will look more closely at this phenomenon in the next section.

Interactive

Try this simulation to make waves with a dripping faucet, audio speaker, or laser! Add a second source or a pair of slits to create an interference pattern. You can observe one source or two sources. Using two sources, you can observe the interference patterns that result from varying the frequencies and the amplitudes of the sources.

Superposition of Sinusoidal Waves that Differ by a Phase Shift

Many examples in physics consist of two sinusoidal waves that are identical in amplitude, wave number, and angular frequency, but differ by a phase shift:

y1(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ),y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt).y1(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ),y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt).

When these two waves exist in the same medium, the resultant wave resulting from the superposition of the two individual waves is the sum of the two individual waves:

yR(x,t)=y1(x,t)+y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ)+Asin(kxωt).yR(x,t)=y1(x,t)+y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ)+Asin(kxωt).

The resultant wave can be better understood by using the trigonometric identity:

sinu+sinv=2sin(u+v2)cos(uv2),sinu+sinv=2sin(u+v2)cos(uv2),

where u=kxωt+ϕu=kxωt+ϕ and v=kxωtv=kxωt. The resulting wave becomes

yR(x,t)=y1(x,t)+y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ)+Asin(kxωt)=2Asin((kxωt+ϕ)+(kxωt)2)cos((kxωt+ϕ)(kxωt)2)=2Asin(kxωt+ϕ2)cos(ϕ2).yR(x,t)=y1(x,t)+y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ)+Asin(kxωt)=2Asin((kxωt+ϕ)+(kxωt)2)cos((kxωt+ϕ)(kxωt)2)=2Asin(kxωt+ϕ2)cos(ϕ2).

This equation is usually written as

yR(x,t)=[2Acos(ϕ2)]sin(kxωt+ϕ2).yR(x,t)=[2Acos(ϕ2)]sin(kxωt+ϕ2).
(16.13)

The resultant wave has the same wave number and angular frequency, an amplitude of AR=[2Acos(ϕ2)],AR=[2Acos(ϕ2)], and a phase shift equal to half the original phase shift. Examples of waves that differ only in a phase shift are shown in Figure 16.24. The red and blue waves each have the same amplitude, wave number, and angular frequency, and differ only in a phase shift. They therefore have the same period, wavelength, and frequency. The green wave is the result of the superposition of the two waves. When the two waves have a phase difference of zero, the waves are in phase, and the resultant wave has the same wave number and angular frequency, and an amplitude equal to twice the individual amplitudes (part (a)). This is constructive interference. If the phase difference is 180°,180°, the waves interfere in destructive interference (part (c)). The resultant wave has an amplitude of zero. Any other phase difference results in a wave with the same wave number and angular frequency as the two incident waves but with a phase shift of ϕ/2ϕ/2 and an amplitude equal to 2Acos(ϕ/2).2Acos(ϕ/2). Examples are shown in parts (b) and (d).

radians. The crests of the blue wave coincide with the troughs of the red wave and vice versa. The green wave is absent. Figure d is labeled delta phi equal to 3 pi by 2 radians. Here, the red and blue waves each have an amplitude of 10 m and the green wave has an amplitude of 15 m. It has the same wavelength as the other two waves. The crests of the green wave are formed where the crests of the red and blue waves intersect each other.
Figure 16.24 Superposition of two waves with identical amplitudes, wavelengths, and frequency, but that differ in a phase shift. The red wave is defined by the wave function y1(x,t)=Asin(kxωt)y1(x,t)=Asin(kxωt) and the blue wave is defined by the wave function y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ)y2(x,t)=Asin(kxωt+ϕ). The black line shows the result of adding the two waves. The phase difference between the two waves are (a) 0.00rad,0.00rad, (b) π/2rad,π/2rad, (c) πrad,πrad, and (d) 3π/2rad3π/2rad.
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