Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

ISVR6148 Theoretical and Computational Acoustics

Module Overview

This module introduces students to mathematical and numerical methods to solve practical problems in acoustics. It provides a self-contained review and derivation of the equations of linear acoustics in the time and frequency domains. Mathematical modelling of sound fields generated by complex source distributions is introduced. This leads to more advanced mathematical methods commonly used in acoustics such as the acoustic Green function and integral solutions of the acoustic wave equation. The numerical methods which are covered in the course are available as commercial software packages but the underpinning theory and analysis is discussed in sufficient technical detail to serve as a starting point for those seeking to apply or extend them to research problems.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The equations that govern the propagation of sound in a stationary medium. [SM5m]
  • Boundary conditions for practical acoustic problems. [SM5m]
  • Advanced mathematical methods associated with modelling sound fields generated by complex source distributions. [SM5m]
  • Integral solutions of the inhomogeneous Helmholtz equation using the acoustic Green function. [SM2p]
  • The background theories, features and limitations of Finite Element and Boundary Element Methods in the frequency domain for acoustics. [SM5m]
  • Computational requirements of numerical analyses and trade-off between cost and accuracy. [SM5m]
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Formulate solutions to predict sound fields generated by complex source distributions. [SM2m]
  • Use more advanced mathematical methods in analytical acoustics. [SM1m]
  • Assess the suitability of different numerical methods for a wide range of practical acoustical problems. [SM5m]
  • Validate numerical acoustics codes against a relevant benchmark acoustic problem. [EA3p]
  • Write simple Finite and Boundary Element codes for the Helmholtz problem. [SM1fl]
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply critical analysis and evaluation skills. [SM3p]
  • Read, understand, and interpret scientific texts and papers. [EP4i]
  • Synthesise information from a range of sources. [EP4i]
  • Communicate clearly in written reports. [D6p]
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply Green function theory for solving partial differential equations. [SM2i]
  • Understand user documentation for commercial acoustic codes and use relevant tools to create computational models, perform analysis and post-process results. [SM5m]
  • Determine the mesh requirements and boundary conditions for simulating target acoustic problems. [EA3p]
  • Apply the numerical methods presented in the course to problems in acoustics and other areas. [EA3p]
  • Reduce real world acoustical problems to more simple problems amenable to numerical solution. [SM5m]


Indicative content: - Revision of fluid dynamics - Derivation of equations for linear acoustics. Wave equation - Time-harmonic acoustics. Complex notation and the Helmholtz equation - Finite Element Method for the Helmholtz problem: 1-D elements - Numerical dispersion and dissipation, the pollution effect. - Finite Element Method for the Helmholtz problem: 2D and 3D elements. - Acoustic sources. Inhomogeneous wave and Helmholtz equations - The acoustic Green function - Integral solutions of the inhomogeneous Helmholtz equation - Boundary Element Method for the Helmholtz problems in 2D and 3D fields. - Introduction to advanced techniques and other methods - A range of benchmark examples/applications in physical acoustics

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be delivered by using a mixture of interactive lecture/tutorial sessions. . These sessions will be used to present the theory and worked examples. Lecture notes will be available in electronic format on Blackboard. For advanced topics, additional material for self-study will be provided to supplement the lectures. Problems sheets will be provided which contain exercises similar to the worked examples presented during the lectures. Solutions to the exercises will be provided on Blackboard. Solutions to problems will be covered at tutorial sessions. Additional tutorials will be provided for students studying the level 7 version of this module. At these tutorials, solutions to more advanced problems will be covered. Revision lectures will be given at the end of the course to prepare students for the exam. A summative coursework assignment will require the students to solve acoustics problems by writing simple programmes or by using commercial acoustics software.

Wider reading or practice12
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Completion of assessment task30
Follow-up work24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Software requirement. Access to classkit Licence for COMSOL (acoustics module).



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 30%
Final Assessment  70%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Prerequisite: (ISVR1032 and ISVR2042) or ISVR6136

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings