It is apparent that a new area of technology based on the use of sound waves, is taking shape. The term "sonics" was given to this new technology which includes the analysis, testing, and processing of materials and products by the use of mechanical vibrating energy. All applications of sonics are based on the same physical principles, the particular frequency that is best suited being determined by the special requirements and limitations of the task.
We shall see that the phenomenon of acoustic vibration can be utilized in many ways. With sound waves we can "sonograph"(as with light waves we photograph) the inner structure of bodies that are opaque to light. Sound waves can penetrate many solids and liquids more readily than X-rays or other forms of electromagnetic energy. Thus sound can expose a tiny crack embedded many feet deep in metal, where detection by any other means might be impossible. Similarly ultrasonic pulse techniques are now being used in medicine for the early diagnosis of different diseases.
By acoustic techniques we can measure the elastic constants of solid materials, as well as analyse the residual stresses or structural changes. The molecular arrangements within many organic liquids can be found from measurements of sound velocity or absorption. The rates of energy transfer among gas molecules and the chemical affinity of gaseous mixtures can be determined by using sound waves.
As soon as we can measure a process, we have within reach a means of controlling it. Indeed acoustic instrumentation offers extensive but practically unexplored opportunities in the automatic control of industrial processes. The geometry of metal parts, the quality of cast metals and laminated plastics, the temperature in the combustion chamber of gasoline engines, the composition of compounds in liquid or gas, the flow velocity of liquids and gases - these and many other processes may, in time, come under the watchful ear of acoustics.
In the above-mentioned applications, the sound is used as a measuring stick or flashlight - the amounts of power are small and incidental. In another class of applications, large amounts of acoustic power are employed to do useful work. Vibrational energy for example is already used to drill rock and to machine complicated profiles in one single operation. Sound has become a powerful method for the cleaning of precision parts and may find important applications in electrochemistry. Acting on fumes, dusts and smokes, sound can speed up the collection of particles.
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