Acoustic wavefront imaging


  • Dedicated to Prof. Wolfgang Eisenmenger on the occasion of his 65th birthday


We introduce a new class of experiments which provide graphic insights into the propagation of acoustic waves in anisotropic media. Simply stated, we have devised a means of observing the expanding acoustic wavefront from a point disturbance in a solid. The data may be viewed as a movie or a series of snapshots. The observed wavefronts represent the group-velocity surfaces of acoustic waves, which reflect the basic elastic anisotropy of the solid. The technique has been applied to coherent acoustic waves with frequencies in the megahertz range (at ambient temperatures) and to incoherent heat pulses in the hundred-gigahertz range (at liquid-helium temperatures). In this article, we first provide a pedagogical introduction to wave propagation in elastically anisotropic media, reviewing some early methods for visualizing acoustic waves. Next, we describe the “acoustic wavefront imaging” method and give representative results in crystals and composite materials. Finally, we show how this method relates to recent advances in phonon imaging and internal diffraction of ultrasound.