Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week NEWTON Teachers Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Referencing NEWTON Frequently Asked Questions About Ask A Scientist About NEWTON Education At Argonne Mechanics of Sound Absorption

Name: Wayne
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Country: Malaysia
Date: Fall 2013

How does sound get absorbed into the rough surfaces? (Since sound reflects onto smooth surfaces, and get absorbed into rough surfaces)

Hi Wayne,

In fact, sound does not get absorbed when it hits a hard rough surface. The rough surface mainly just scatters it in all directions.

But when sound hits a porous or soft fibrous surface, it does tend to get absorbed. The sound's energy, when hitting such a surface, doesn't just disappear; it is converted into heat energy as a result of frictional losses.

Regards, Bob Wilson

Hi Wayne,

Thanks for the question. Sound can be absorbed by materials such as carpet and cardboard (egg-cartons). A rough surface can also reflect sound in a manner which scatters the sound wave and makes it not coherent. This process is called diffuse reflection. Diffuse reflection degrades the quality of the sound and as such, you may think that the sound has been absorbed.

I hope this helps. Thanks Jeff Grell

Click here to return to the Engineering Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 223
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: November 2011
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory