Scientists discover the upper limit of speed of sound

The upper limit of the sound speed, which was previously unknown to the world, is twice as fast as the diamond’s sound speed. This is according to the new study conducted by the scientists of the Queen Mary University of London.

In the study’s conduct, the university collaborated with the University of Cambridge and the Institute for High-Pressure physics in Troitsk.

The theory of relativity given by the great scientist Albert Einstein puts the absolute speed limit at which a wave can travel. That speed is the speed of light, which is equal to around 300,000km for each second. But it was unknown whether while going through solids and fluids, the sound waves have an upper limit.

Through this experiment, scientists realized that it does have an upper limit of 36 km per second, which is around twice as fast as the diamond’s sound speed, the world’s hardest known substance.

The New Discovery

Through this discovery, it is implied that the sound travels at the fastest speed in hydrogen. But in high pressures above 1 million atmospheres, hydrogen takes a solid atomic state. At that point, hydrogen becomes a metallic solid that can conduct electricity like other metals, such as copper. At this pressure, it is predicted to act like a room-temperature superconductor.

Hence, a calculation called the state-of-the-art quantum mechanical calculations was made to test the prediction. It was then found that solid atomic hydrogen’s sound speed is close to the fundamental theoretical limit.

“The soundwaves in solids are already exceedingly important across the many scientific fields. For example, seismologists use sound waves commenced by earthquakes deep in the Earth’s interior. This is to understand the character of seismic events and Earth composition properties. They’re also of interest to materials scientists because sound waves are related to important elastic properties. This including the ability to resist stress”, said Professor Chris Pickard, Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge.

The Importance of the New Discovery

This discovery will help people understand some fundamental constants that will play an essential role in understanding our Universe. These include the finely-tuned values govern nuclear reactions such as proton decay and atomic synthesis in stars. 

The balance between the two numbers provides a narrow “habitable zone” where stars and planets can form, and life-supporting molecular structures can emerge. Hence, the theory becomes extremely important for understanding the realms of the Universe.

Image courtesy of Gts/Shutterstock

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