How Fast Sound Travels through Water, Air, and Solid

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Sound is a wave derived when a disturbance oscillates through a given medium. Mediums include water, gas, or solid, and when particles in such mediums vibrate sound becomes the result.  According to Christov and Jordan (2005), sound is typically a wave of alternating expansions and compressions, and being a wave of alternating expansions and compressions, it bounces back more easily on less compressible mediums. According to mediums such as water are about 15000 times less compressible than air, but its density is 800 times more (Linder and Erickson, 1989). This extra density in this medium means that molecules move slower and in process slowing the compression wave. As a result water's high density, it lowers incompressibility thus making it easy for sound to travel faster in water than in air. It can be argued further that sound travels faster in diamond because it is incompressible and has an extremely low density. In essence, the two sources offer substantial grounds to further my research on how fast sound travels across three mediums: water, solid, and air.


My main hypothesis is “sound travels faster in water than it does in air and solid” I intend to prove whether the stated hypothesis is correct or wrong at the end of the research. According to Christov and Jordan (2005), the speed of sound in any medium can be determined by the equation: v = (Kρ)-½ Where, v is the speed of sound, K is the compressibility, and ρ is the density. Equally, the principle that speed=distance/time is of great importance in arriving at the conclusion herein. Density, speed, and compressibility are a major determinates in arriving at how fast sound travels through a medium. Ideally, it is important to substantiate my hypothesis based on the following scientific concept.


Independent Variable

The Independent Variable is what the researcher is altering during the research process, and it is none other than the water glasses (one filled with water, another with ice, and another one left empty).

Dependent Variables

Equally, for the research, the dependent variables are the amount of time it takes one to hear the vibrations after tapping. Time will be measured in seconds.

Control variables

The empty glass acts as the control variable

The same type of glasses for each test. The glasses should be doing the same work for each test (air, solid, and water)

Confounding Variable

Confounding variables (aka third variables) is the variable that the researcher failed to control, or eliminate; during the experiment is room temperature. Room temperature was constant during the entire process.

Uncontrolled Confounding variables

The strength or rather the power of hitting the glass was uncontrollable per glass. How the researcher hit one glass with the rod was not how he hit the other.


The entire process involves bringing three glasses of similar sizes, timer, a table, three ice cubes, and water. I will fill one glass to a 2/3 full, the second one put the three ice cubes, and the final one leaves it empty. What follows is to have a different person tap the first glass with a rod as you place your head and ear on the table to time the exact time it takes to hear a vibration with a timer. The hitting of the second glass of water will be done after the first recording time taken to hear the first vibration. The same thing will be done for the third glass.





Glass with 2/3 water


1.47 seconds

Glass with 2/3 ice cubes


1.20 seconds

Empty Glass


2.23 seconds

From the results of sound, conduction is faster in solids than it is on air (empty glass) and water. In air (2.23 seconds) sound conduction is slow because the particles are far apart and have to travel far before bumping into each other to generate a vibration. Ideally, even though there is little resistance in the air to start a wave it typically takes longer for the particles to collide and create sound. In water (1.47 seconds), particles are much closer than they are in air hence easier to initiate a vibration. But despite having water particles closer together, it takes more energy to initiate a vibration in water than it is in the air. Fait sound in air cannot cause vibrations in water as it cannot force water particles to collide. Finally, in solids (1.20 seconds) particles are very close to each other and are typically easier to initiate a vibration than in air and water. Nevertheless, more energy is required to propel the vibration.


In conclusion, based on the research and existing literature the hypothesis is refutable. This is because there is no way sound will travels faster in water than it does in air and solid. The correct statement is that sound travels faster in solid than it does in air and liquid. From the research, sound passed faster and clearer through a glass filled with ice cubes followed by the glass with water, and finally, the glass that was empty. Therefore, sound travels differently across mediums and what determines the speed of sound is the energy used to influence wave generation.  Nevertheless, sound passes across all mediums except a vacuum. 


Christov, C. I., & Jordan, P. M. (2005). Heat conduction paradox involving second-sound propagation in moving media. Physical review letters, 94(15), 154301.

Linder, C. J., & Erickson, G. L. (1989). A study of tertiary physics students’ conceptualizations of sound. International Journal of Science Education, 11(5), 491-501.

October 05, 2023




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