You might have wondered about the speed of sound sometime! You will be surprised to know that sound travels with different speed in different mediums. Speed of sound is defined as the distance traveled by a sound wave per unit time in a given medium. Within air having a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius, the speed of sound is estimated to be 331.29 meters in a second. Furthermore, the sound speed in liquid water at 8 degrees Celsius is estimated to be 1,439 meters per second. It proves that sound can travel faster in a denser medium (like water) compared to a rarer medium like air. Let us understand what is the speed of sound and how to calculate it?

The formula for finding the Speed of Sound
Since the speed of sound refers to the distance traveled by a sound wave at a particular time, the speed of sound is determined using the formula mentioned below:

v = λ f
Where,
v = velocity
λ = sound wave wavelength
f = frequency

The velocity of sound, frequency, & wavelength is similar for every wave. Sound wavelength is the distance that's between the adjacent rarefactions or compressions.
The speed of sound in the air depends on numerous factors. Here is a list showing the speed of sound in m/s in various mediums.

When the gases are at 0ºC, the speed of sound (in m/s) is:
•    Carbon dioxide - 259
•    Air - 343
•    Oxygen - 316
•    Hydrogen- 1290
•    Helium - 965

When Liquid is at 20ºC, the speed of sound is:
•    Mercury - 1450
•    Ethanol -1160
•    Water, fresh - 1480
•    Human tissue - 1540
•    Seawater - 1540

The speed of sound on solids (bulk or longitudinal) is:
•    Vulcanized rubber - 54
•    Marble – 3810
•    Polyethylene - 920
•    Glass, Pyrex - 5640
•    Aluminum - 5120
•    Lead - 1960
•    Steel – 5960

The sound speed in a vacuum is zero. It is because there are no particles present in a vacuum. Sound waves travel through a medium that has particles for propagating sound waves. The vacuum doesn't have the matter, so there's no sound wave propagation.

Factors that affect the speed of sound
●    Temperature of Medium: The speed of the sound is directly proportional to the temperature of a medium. If the temperature increases, then the speed of sound waves increases too. Thus, an increase in temperature increases sound’s speed.
●    Density of Medium: Denser is the medium; faster is the speed of sound. Sound waves travel fastest in solid medium and slowest in gaseous medium.


Sound has different travel speeds depending on the medium it is traveling through and the temperature of the medium.

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What is the speed of sound?