Overview of Acoustics

Acoustics is derived from a Greek term which literally means “of or for hearing, ready to hear”. This interdisciplinary science deals with the study of mechanical waves in solids, liquids and gases. Acoustics involve the study of vibration, sound, infrasound and ultrasound. 

Principles of acoustics are applied in many industries (like medicine, music, aircraft and ammunition) of the modern world. Acousticians (scientists working in the field of acoustics) and acoustic engineers (people working in the field of acoustics technology) all over the world are working in an effort to use this science for the benefit of mankind. 

Scientists have been studying the principles of acoustics for thousands of years. Great personalities in the history of mankind (like Pythagoras, Aristotle, Galileo and Newton) have made significant contributions to this science. Galileo laid the foundations for physiological and psychological acoustics.

Acoustics mainly involve the study of generation, propagation, and reception of mechanical waves and vibrations. An acoustical process usually involves five steps. These are cause, generating mechanism (transduction), acoustic wave propagation, reception (transduction), and effect. 

The transduction process converts energy (in other form) into sonic energy, thereby producing a sound wave. This sound wave carries the energy through a medium. The energy is again converted into another form, which eventually creates an effect. Wave propagation is an important step in the acoustical process. In solids, sound waves propagate in various forms (like longitudinal waves, surface waves and transverse waves). In liquids and gases they propagate as a pressure wave. 

The field of acoustics is divided into seventeen major sub-fields (as per the PACS classification system). These sub-fields fall under three domains. They are physical acoustics, biological acoustics, and acoustical engineering. 

Acoustics plays a major role in enhancing the quality of music. It helps aeronautical engineers in reduction of aircraft noise. It enables the people working in the automobile industry reduce noise levels in various vehicles. Acoustics helps architects design buildings with low noise levels. It enhances the ability of people with speech and hearing disabilities to interact with the world. 

Acoustics is an exciting science which continues to play a major role in improving the quality of life of people all over the world. Many governments and giant corporations all over the world are investing large amounts of money for research in this area. Acoustics offers many opportunities for students. There are immense employment opportunities in this field.