Yes, sound does travel faster in a denser medium. The speed of sound is influenced by the properties of the medium through which it travels, with density being one of the key factors. In general, sound travels faster in denser materials, such as solids and liquids, compared to less dense materials like gases.
The speed of sound in a medium is determined by the elasticity (ability to return to its original shape) and density of the material. The formula for the speed of sound in a medium is:
Speed of Sound (v) = √(Elasticity / Density)
- Elasticity refers to the material’s stiffness or how quickly it can transmit mechanical waves.
- Density is the mass of the material per unit volume.
In denser materials, such as solids and liquids, the particles are closer together, which leads to stronger intermolecular or interatomic forces and a higher elasticity. This higher elasticity and increased density contribute to a faster speed of sound in those materials.
In contrast, in less dense gases, the particles are farther apart, and the weaker intermolecular forces result in lower elasticity and, consequently, a slower speed of sound.
As a practical example, sound travels much faster in water (a denser medium) than in air (a less dense medium). This property of sound is essential in fields like underwater acoustics, where the speed of sound in water can affect the behavior of sound waves in the ocean.