Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rubens' Tube


The Rubens' tube, also known as the Standing wave flame tube, or simply flame tube, is a physics experiment demonstrating a standing wave. It shows the relationship between sound waves and sound pressure.

Overview

A length of pipe is perforated along the top and sealed at both ends - one seal is attached to a small speaker or frequency generator, the other to a supply of a flammable gas (propane tank). The pipe is filled with the gas, and the gas leaking from the perforations is lit. If a suitable constant frequency is used, a standing wave can form within the tube. When the speaker is turned on, the standing wave will create points with oscillating (higher and lower) pressure and points with constant pressure (pressure nodes) along the tube. Where there is oscillating pressure due to the sound waves, less gas will escape from the perforations in the tube, and the flames will be lower at those points. At the pressure nodes, the flames are higher. At the end of the tube gas molecule velocity is zero and oscillating pressure is maximal, thus low flames are observed. It is possible to determine the wavelength from the flame minima and maxima by simply measuring with a ruler.

Explanation

Since the time averaged pressure is equal at all points of the tube, it is not straightforward to explain the different flame heights. The flame height is proportional to the gas flow as shown in the figure. Based on Bernoulli's principle, the gas flow is proportional to the square root of the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the tube. This is shown in the figure for a tube without standing sound wave. Based on this argument, the flame height depends non-linearly on the local, time-dependent pressure. The time average of the flow is reduced at the points with oscillating pressure and thus flames are lower.
Source



The classic physics experiment involving sound, a tube of propane and fire.
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