One Dimensional Wave Equation Derivation

The wave equation in classical physics is considered to be an important second-order linear partial differential equation to describe the waves. The wave equation arises in fields like fluid dynamics, electromagnetics, and acoustics.

d’Alembert discovered the one-dimensional wave equation in the year 1746, after ten years Euler discovered the three-dimensional wave equation.

One Dimensional Wave Equation Derivation

Consider the relation between Newton’s law that is applied to the volume ΔV in the direction x:

\(\Delta F=\Delta m\frac{dv_{x}}{dt}\) (Newton’s law)


F: force acting on the element with volume ΔV

\(\Delta F_{x}=-\Delta p_{x}\Delta S_{x}\) \(=(\frac{\partial p}{\partial x}\Delta x+\frac{\partial p}{\partial x}dt)\Delta S_{x}\) \(\simeq -\frac{\partial p}{\partial x}\Delta V\) \(-\Delta V\frac{\partial p}{\partial x}=\Delta m\frac{dv_{x}}{dt}\) (as dt is small, it is not considered and ΔSx is in x direction so ΔyΔz and from Newton’s law)

\(=\rho \Delta V\frac{dv_{x}}{dt}\)

From \(\frac{dv_{x}}{dt} as \frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial t}\) \(\frac{dv_{x}}{dt}=\frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial t}+v_{x}\frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial x}\approx \frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial x}\) \(-\frac{\partial p}{\partial x}=\rho \frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial t}\)

Above equation is known as the equation of motion.

\(-\frac{\partial }{\partial x}(\frac{\partial p}{\partial x})=\frac{\partial }{\partial x}(\rho \frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial t})\) \(=\rho \frac{\partial }{\partial t}(\frac{\partial v_{x}}{\partial x})\) \(-\frac{\partial^2 p}{\partial x^2}=\rho \frac{\partial }{\partial t}(-\frac{1}{K}\frac{\partial p}{\partial t})\) (from conservation of mass)

\(\frac{\partial p^{2}}{\partial x^{2}}-\frac{\rho }{K}\frac{\partial^2 p}{\partial t^2}=0\)


K: bulk modulus

Rewriting the above equation:

\(\frac{\partial p^{2}}{\partial x^{2}}-\frac{1}{c}^{2}\frac{\partial^2 p}{\partial t^2}=0\)


c: velocity of sound given as \(c=\sqrt{\frac{K}{\rho }}\)

Thus, above is the one-dimensional wave equation derivation.

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This video below explains the general wave equation, phase, and the motion of particles of the wave.

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