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Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142

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Applied Acoustics
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/apacoust

Simulation and measurement of noise barrier sound-reflection

Paul Reiter a,b,⇑, Reinhard Wehr a, Harald Ziegelwanger a
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Center for Mobility Systems, Transportation Infrastructure Technologies, Giefinggasse 2, 1210 Vienna, Austria
TU Wien, Institute of Applied Physics, Wiedner Hauptstr. 8-10/134, 1040 Vienna, Austria

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Noise barriers are a widely used technical measure to reduce noise immission from road and rail trans-
Received 9 May 2016 port. The simulation-based prediction of intrinsic acoustic properties allows a cost-efficient product opti-
Received in revised form 22 August 2016 mization in the course of the development process. The computational determination of the reflection
Accepted 6 March 2017
index requires the simulation of the internal structure of a noise barrier by the finite-element method
Available online 21 March 2017
(FEM). The frequency range of interest and the mathematical modeling depth of the simulation result
in a high computational effort which can be reduced by taking advantage of the periodic structure of a
noise barrier. A periodic FEM model allows the simulation of fine geometric structures and different
Computational acoustics
Noise barriers
materials in noise barriers, e.g., perforated plates and porous absorbers. In this study, we compared
Finite element method and evaluated three methods for determining the acoustic properties of noise barriers, i.e., the acoustic
In-situ sound reflection measurement, analytical calculation, and FEM simulation. The analytical calculation was the most effi-
cient method although this method was not able to reproduce results from the acoustic measurement
above 2000 Hz. The numerical calculation by a periodic FEM was efficient and reproduced results from
the acoustic measurement more accurately.
Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction The reflection and insulation properties of various noise-barrier

materials [15] and noise-barrier construction types were investi-
Noise barriers [1,2,3,4] are important measures against traffic- gated, e.g., for coal-bottom ash [16], for concrete [17], for gabions
related noise in the proximity of roads and railways [5]. The perfor- [18], and for aluminum noise-barrier elements [8]. Also the influ-
mance of a noise barrier mainly depends on its shape [6], height ence of the shape of different parts of a noise barrier on the
[4,7] and sound absorption properties [8]. While the height is lim- diffraction properties and the insertion loss was investigated, e.g.,
ited by aesthetic and economic reasons, the shape of the profile has for the overall noise-barrier shape [6,19–22], for the design of
to follow architectural, static and practical guidelines. the top-edge [23], or even for active noise-canceling elements at
The acoustic performance of a noise barrier is quantified by its a noise-barriers top-edge [24,25].
intrinsic parameters, viz., the sound diffraction index [9], the sound For noise-barrier manufacturers, mathematical models are cost-
insulation index [10] and the sound reflection index RI, [11]. In the efficient tools in the product development process to predict the
framework of the EU project QUIESST (QUIESST D4.3 [12], QUIESST acoustic performance of new noise-barrier designs. For example,
D7.4 [13]) the in-situ method for testing noise barrier properties with analytical models the consequences of sound leaks were
was further developed. The sound insulation index can be mea- determined [26] or even complex noise barriers were modeled
sured according to EN 1793-6 [10] and gives an indication of the [27]. To apply mathematical models more generally, methods from
noise barriers’ ability to block transmitting sound. The RI, which computational physics can be used, e.g., the finite-element method
can be measured according to CEN/TS 1793-5 [11] [14] compares FEM, [28] or the boundary element method [29]. For instance, por-
the reflected sound energy to the energy of the incoming sound ous absorbing materials were simulated with the FEM in Craggs
wave. [30] and in another study [31] it was possible to optimize a noise
barrier’s top edge via a genetic algorithm in boundary element
⇑ Corresponding author at: AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Mobility simulations.
Department, Transportation Infrastructure Technologies, Giefinggasse 2, 1210 This study focuses on noise-barrier sound-reflection properties.
Vienna, Austria. Three methods to determine the RI spectrum of a noise barrier
E-mail address: paul.reiter.fl@ait.ac.at (P. Reiter).

0003-682X/Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
134 P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142

with its components (absorber, perforated front plate, . . .) were 2.1.1. Layers
compared, viz., acoustic measurement, analytical calculation, and Let Lj be the jth layer with width lj and local coordinates
FEM simulation. The acoustic measurement method according to xj 2 f0; lj g. Then the local sound pressure pj is assumed to be a
CEN/TS 1793-5 [11] was the reference method for the determina- superposition of an incoming and an outgoing plane wave with
tion of the RI up to the 5 kHz third-octave band. The analytical the complex valued amplitudes Aj and Bj in layer Lj . pj depends
model was implemented for one-dimensional (1D) acoustic lay- on the properties of the material in the layer, which can be air or
ered systems based on equations from Möser [4]. This model a porous absorber. For a layer of air, the sound pressure p is given
enabled an efficient prediction of the reflection properties of a lay- by the Helmholtz equation
ered system of different materials. It was also used to determine
the material parameters of a porous absorber via least square fits @2p 2
þ k p ¼ 0; ð2Þ
to acoustical measurements for various setups. Since the 1D ana- @x2
lytical model was not capable to predict the RI of three-
where k ¼ xc is the real-valued wave number, x is the circular fre-
dimensional structures for the full frequency range of interest, a
quency and c is the speed of sound in air. The solution of Eq. (2)
FEM formulation was implemented with FEniCS1 [32]. The compu-
is given by the superposition of two plane waves for the jth layer
tational effort of the simulations was reduced by a periodic approach
according to
in the FEM. With the derived FEM model, the RI of a noise barrier
was numerically calculated. Finally, the results were compared with pj ðxj Þ ¼ Aj eikxj þ Bj eikxj ð3Þ
data from the analytical model and data acoustically measured
according to CEN/TS 1793-5 [11]. for the sound pressure and
i @pj 1
v ðxj Þ ¼ ¼ ðAj eikxj  Bj eikxj Þ ð4Þ
xq @xj qc
2. Methods
for the associated particle velocity v with q representing the density
A cassette-element noise barrier is an acoustical system which of air.
may consist of multiple layers with different materials (air, absor- Inside a layer of absorbing material, a modified Helmholtz equa-
ber, aluminum, etc.). In this section, three methods are presented tion is used:
which can be used to derive the RI of such an acoustic system. First
the analytical model is described and it is shown how to incorpo- @2p 2
þ ka p ¼ 0 ð5Þ
rate different layers in a consistent mathematical description. To @x2
make the analytical calculation feasible, the acoustic problem where ka now is a complex-valued wave number given by
was limited to one dimension only. Second, a FEM formulation of pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
ka ¼ k zðr; j; NÞ. The factor zðr; j; NÞ depends on the material
the sound field in cassette elements is presented. The acoustic
parameters of the absorber and introduces damping to the sound
problem was reduced to a unit cell of the cassette element with
wave (compare Appendix A.1). Similarly to the layer of air, the
periodic boundary conditions to reduce the computational effort.
superposition of plane waves is given by
Third, we shortly outline the standard for measuring noise barrier
reflection properties in-situ. pj ðxj Þ ¼ Aj eika xj þ Bj eika xj ð6Þ

for the sound pressure and by

2.1. Analytical calculation
i @pj r k
v j ðxj Þ ¼ r ¼ ðA eika xj  Bj eika xj Þ ð7Þ
ka xq @xj qc ka j
The analytical model of the acoustic system consists of a series
of layers, interface conditions between layers, and boundary condi-
for the associated particle velocity, where r is the porosity of the
tions at the boundaries of the acoustic system. The acoustic behav-
absorber (compare Appendix A.1).
ior of a layer is determined by its material properties, e.g., density
A general description of plane waves inside a layer can there-
of air or porosity of an absorber. An interface condition can
fore be written as
describe either continuity of pressure and velocity or an arbitrary
impedance between layers, e.g., an oscillating mass. In each layer pj ðxj Þ ¼ Aj ap;j ðxj Þ þ Bj bp;j ðxj Þ
the sound field is given by the superposition of an incoming and ð8Þ
v j ðxj Þ ¼ Aj av ;j ðxj Þ þ Bj bv ;j ðxj Þ;
an outgoing plane wave, in accordance to the general solution of
the Helmholtz equation. To calculate the amplitudes of the incom- where Aj ; Bj are the amplitudes of the plane waves ap;j ; bp;j ; av ;j ; bv ;j :
ing and outgoing plane waves, the equations derived from the Air
interface and boundary conditions are used to build a linear system
of equations: ap;j ðxj Þ ¼ eikxj bp;j ðxj Þ ¼ eikxj
1 1 ikxj ð9Þ
! av ;j ðxj Þ ¼  eikxj bv ;j ðxj Þ ¼ e
A x ¼ b; ð1Þ qc qc
with A the system matrix, b the right-hand-side representing the ap;j ðxj Þ ¼ eika xj bp;j ðxj Þ ¼ eika xj
source terms, and x the vector of unknown complex valued ampli- r k ika xj r k ika xj ð10Þ
! av ;j ðxj Þ ¼  e bv ;j ðxj Þ ¼ e
tudes of the plane waves. When x is known, the sound pressure in qc ka qc ka
each layer and therefore the RI can be calculated. In the following,
we describe the construction of the linear system of equations With Eq. (8) the sound pressure and the particle velocity can be cal-
and the calculation of the RI. culated for every layer Lj , if the amplitudes Aj and Bj are known. To
determine the amplitudes, a linear system of equations is con-
A general open-source solver for differential equations; available from http:// structed, with Aj and Bj forming the vector of unknowns x . The con-
fenicsproject.org (date last viewed: April 15, 2016). ditions at the layer boundaries and interfaces determine the matrix
P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142 135

elements which form the system matrix A as well as the right hand þpj þ ðqc þ ixm00 Þv j 0 ¼ 0 ð20Þ
side b . and

2.1.2. Interface conditions pj þ ðqc þ ixm00 Þv j l ¼ 0; ð21Þ
The interface conditions describe the relation of the sound pres-
sure and the particle velocity at the interface of two layers. In this where the sign of pj is defined by the direction of the outgoing
section, the interface conditions (continuity and oscillating mass) wave. Therefore the corresponding matrix elements are given by
used in the analytical model are described. Additionally it is shown  
ðqc þ ixm00 Þav ;j þ ap;j ðqc þ ixm00 Þbv ;j þ bp;j 0 ð22Þ
how their matrix elements for the system matrix A are derived.
Continuity of the sound pressure and the particle velocity is the and
most basic interface condition:  
ðqc þ ixm00 Þav ;j  ap;j ðqc þ ixm00 Þbv ;j  bp;j l : ð23Þ
pj ðlj Þ ¼ pjþ1 ð0Þ j

v j ðlj Þ ¼ v jþ1 ð0Þ: The Sommerfeld radiation condition allows only outgoing waves at
the boundary of the acoustic system and can be extended by an
Insertion of the general formulation of plane waves given in Eq. (8) incoming plane wave of amplitude p0 traveling in the x direction:
leads to

@ @ 
p þ ikpj ¼ 2p0 ap;j  ð24Þ
Aj ap;j ðlj Þ þ Bj bp;j ðlj Þ  Ajþ1 ap;jþ1 ð0Þ  Bjþ1 bp;jþ1 ð0Þ ¼ 0 @xj j @xj
ð12Þ lj lj
Aj av ;j ðlj Þ þ Bj bv ;j ðlj Þ  Ajþ1 av ;jþ1 ð0Þ  Bjþ1 bv ;jþ1 ð0Þ ¼ 0:
to model a sound source at the þx boundary or traveling in the þx-
The matrix elements therefore are given by direction

  @ @ 
ap;j ðlj Þ bp;j ðlj Þ ap;jþ1 ð0Þ bp;jþ1 ð0Þ p  ikpj ¼ 2p0 bp;j  ð25Þ
: ð13Þ @xj j @xj
av ;j ðlj Þ bv ;j ðlj Þ av ;jþ1 ð0Þ bv ;jþ1 ð0Þ 0 0

to model a sound source at the x boundary. If the layer at the

Another interface condition can be the acoustic impedance of an boundary consists of absorbing material, k can be substituted by
oscillating mass between two layers. For an incompressible med- ka . In contrast to the other conditions, the contribution of this
ium, the particle velocity on both sides must be identical and the boundary condition to the right hand side of the linear system of
pressure difference has to follow Newton’s second law. Thus, the equations is not zero. Thus, p0 has to be considered when assem-
interface condition is given by: !
bling the right hand side b .
@v j
pj ðlj Þ  pjþ1 ð0Þ ¼ m00 ¼ ixm00 v j
@t ð14Þ 2.1.4. Building the system matrix
v j ðlj Þ  v jþ1 ð0Þ ¼ 0; The system matrix A is constructed from the equations of all
where m00 is the mass per unit area (examples are shown in Appen- boundary and interface conditions of the acoustic layered system.
dix A.2). The matrix elements are given by: The amplitudes Aj ; Bj of the plane waves in all layers form the vec-
! !
ap;j ðlj Þ bp;j ðlj Þ ap;jþ1 ð0Þixm00 av ;jþ1 ð0Þ bp;jþ1 ð0Þixm00 bv ;jþ1 ð0Þ tor of unknown amplitude coefficients x . The right hand side b is
: zero except for boundary conditions including an incoming plane
av ;j ðlj Þ bv ;j ðlj Þ av ;jþ1 ð0Þ bv ;jþ1 ð0Þ
wave (compare Eqs. (24) and (25)).
A unique solution requires the same number of equations as
unknown amplitudes Aj ; Bj . Every interface condition adds two
2.1.3. Boundary conditions equations to the system matrix, because it relates the sound pres-
The boundary conditions describe how the sound pressure or sure and the particle velocities of neighboring layers. Each bound-
the particle velocity behave at the boundaries of the acoustic sys- ary condition adds one equation which completes the system of
tem. A rigid boundary and a sound-soft boundary are the simplest equations. The total number of equations therefore is two times
boundary conditions. For the rigid boundary, the particle velocity the number of layers.
vanishes at the boundary 0 1
a11 a12 0 ... 0 0 0 1 0 1
B C A1 0
v j j@L j
¼0 ð16Þ B a21
a22 a23 ... 0 0 CB C B C
CB B1 C B 0 C
B a31 ... 0 C
B a32 a33 0 CB C B C
and the matrix elements therefore are given by B 0 0 a43 ... 0 0 CB ¼B . C
  B CB . C
. .. C
av ;j bv ;j @L : B .. .. .. .. .. .. C
CB . C B
ð17Þ B . . . . . . CB C B C
j B C@ A A @ 0 C
B C n
For the sound-soft boundary, the sound pressure vanishes at the @ 0 0 0 . . . a2n1;2n1 a2n1;2n A
Bn p 0
boundary 0 0 0 . . . a2n;2n1 a2n;2n
pj j@Lj ¼ 0 ð18Þ
The RI of a layered system with n layers can now be calculated
and the matrix elements therefore are given by !
from the vector of amplitudes x .
ap;j bp;j @L : ð19Þ  
Bn ðxÞ2
RIðxÞ ¼  
An ðxÞ
An oscillating mass (see Eq. (14)) can also be used as a boundary
condition when the sound pressure and the particle velocity are in With n being the index of the outermost layer of the acoustic
phase beyond the boundary, thus vp ¼ qc. Eq. (14) then simplifies to system, where the incoming wave is introduced.
136 P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142

2.2. FEM simulation With an adapted factor z this formulation is applicable to air
and absorber subdomains. The factor z is set to
While the analytical model and the FEM simulation produce the zr ¼ 1zi ¼ 0 ð34Þ
same results for purely one-dimensional geometries, the benefit of
for an air subdomain and
the FEM simulation lies in its applicability to three-dimensional
features in the geometric structure of the acoustic system, e.g., per- zr ¼ jzi ¼  ð35Þ
forated front plates of noise barriers. In the following, the mathe- xq
matical derivation of the FEM formulation in air and in absorbers for an absorber subdomain (compare Appendix A.1).
including their interface and boundary conditions for the imple-
mentation in FEniCS is shown. 2.2.2. Boundary conditions
The boundary conditions also had to be split into real and imag-
2.2.1. Finite element formulation inary parts and had to be inserted into the surface integral in Eqs.
The Helmholtz equation was the starting point to derive the (32) and (33).
FEM formulation in the frequency domain. Similar to the analytical At a rigid boundary the particle velocity is zero. Since the parti-
model, the modified form (compare Eq. (A.1), [4, p. 205]) was used cle velocity is proportional to the gradient of the sound pressure,
to include absorbing materials in the numerical model: R ! !
the surface integral ðr pÞwd S vanishes. Therefore all boundaries
Mp þ ka p ¼ 0:
ð28Þ R ! !
without a given value for ðr pÞwd S were automatically fully
For the FEM formulation, Eq. (28) was multiplied with a test func- reflective.
tion w and integrated over the domain V. Full absorption can be realized by the Sommerfeld radiation con-
Z Z dition defined by
ðMpÞwdV þ ka pwdV ¼ 0 ð29Þ ! !
n  r p þ ikp ¼ 0 ð36Þ
A partial integration then led to the weak formulation. This gener-
As for our application it was necessary to excite the system with a
ated an additional surface integration term over the whole domain
R ! plane wave at one boundary, the Sommerfeld radiation condition
boundary S d S which was later used to incorporate the boundary was superimposed with an incoming plane wave by
and interface conditions: ! !
Z Z Z n  r p ¼ ikp þ 2p0 ik; ð37Þ
! ! ! !
ðr pÞwd S  ðr pÞðr wÞdV þ ka pwdV ¼ 0: ð30Þ where p0 is the amplitude of the incoming plane wave. The surface
integral of the gradient of p can therefore be stated as:
To apply this FEM formulation to specific use cases, it had to be Z ! !
Z ! !
implemented. Therefor FEniCS was chosen. In a nutshell, FEniCS ðr pr Þw1 d S þ ðr pi Þw2 d S ¼
allows the automated and efficient solution of differential equations Z Z ð38Þ
with the FEM by offering a very general and therefore flexible FEM k ðpi w1  2p0i ÞdS  k ðpr w2  2kp0r ÞdS:
framework while being open source software. FEniCS automatically
generates performant code from a mathematical problem descrip-
tion defined in a Python-script. For more details on FEniCS the Oscillating mass. Eqs. (20) and (21) can be rewritten for the
authors refer to the FEniCS documentation.2 three-dimensional case in the following form:
Since FEniCS does not support complex numbers directly, a sep- ! !
ðqc þ ixm00 Þ n  v p ¼ 0: ð39Þ
aration of the FEM formulation into its real and imaginary part was
necessary for the implementation. To this end, the complex-valued The sign of p is negative in this case because of the outward point-
2 2 !
wave number ka ¼ k z was split into the real-valued wavenumber ing normal vector n of the boundary, which now defines the posi-
k and a complex-valued factor z. Both, the complex-valued sound ! !

pressure p ¼ pr þ ipi and z ¼ zr þ izi were separated into their real

tive coordinate direction. After inserting v ¼ xqi r p, the gradient
and imaginary parts: of p at the boundary is given by
Z Z 00
q þ ix
! m c
~ ðp þ ip Þwd~
r S ~ ðp þ ip Þðr
r ~ wÞdVþ !
r i r i n  r p ¼ p 2   : ð40Þ
Z ð31Þ m00
þ xc
2 q
k ðzr þ izi Þ ðpr þ ipi ÞwdV ¼ 0:
R ! !
The surface integral ðr pÞwd S for the FEM formulation can there-
Eq. (31) was then separated into two coupled equations: fore be stated as:
2 ~ p Þðr
~ w1 ÞdV ¼  Z Z Z
k ðzr pr  zi pi Þw1 dV  ðr r 1 m00 c m00
2  c 2  p w dS þ p w dS þ  pi w2 dS
Z ð32Þ m00
q r 1
x i 1
 ðr ~ p Þw1 d~
S q x
r Z 
 pr w2 dS : ð41Þ
for the real parts and x
ðzi pr þ zr pi Þw2 dV  ðr ~ p Þðr
~ w2 ÞdV ¼
2.2.3. Air-absorber interface conditions
Z ð33Þ
For any arbitrary surface inside a domain filled with air, the sur-
 ðr ~ p Þw2 d~
i face integral of gradient p vanishes, because it has the same value
on both sides of the surface with the only difference that the nor-
for the imaginary parts. mal vectors are pointing in the opposite direction
Fenics documentation; available from http://fenicsproject.org/documentation ~ ~ pdS þ
nr ð~ ~ pdS ¼ 0:
nÞ  r ð42Þ
(date last viewed: July 4, 2016). S S
P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142 137

While the sound pressure on both sides of the interface between an

air and an absorber subdomain is equal, the gradient of the sound
pressure is not equal. Therefore the surface integrals on both sides
do not vanish:
Z !
Z !
! !
n ðr pÞabs dS þ ð n Þ  ðr pÞair dS – 0: ð43Þ

With the parameters of the porous absorber (compare Appendix

A.1) the relation of the pressure gradient on the absorber side and
on the air side of the interface can be stated as:
! ! j N ! !
n ðr pÞabs ¼ i n ðr pÞair : ð44Þ
r qx
! ! !
ðr pÞabs is expressed in terms of ðr pÞair to include the jump of r p
at the interface in the FEM formulation and is then inserted in Eq.
j N
~ ~ pÞ þ ð~ ~ pÞ dS – 0:
i n  ðr nÞ  ðr ð45Þ
r qx S
air air

After splitting into the real and imaginary parts, the interface con-
dition between an absorber and an air subdomain can be stated as: Fig. 1. Overview over the measurement setup.
j ~ p Þ w1 dS þ N ~ p Þ w1 dSþ
n  ðr ~
n  ðr was reoriented to point away from the specimen. A second impulse
r r air
qx i air
response (hereafter denoted free-field IR) was measured, thus con-
j ~ ~ p Þ w2 dS  N
n  ðr ~ ~ p Þ w2 dSþ
n  ðr ð46Þ taining only the direct sound component (as well as ground reflec-
r i air
qx r air
tions, etc.), and representing the sound energy of the incident
~ p Þ w1 dS þ ð~ ~ p Þ w2 dS: sound wave.
n Þ  ðr r air nÞ  ðr i air

For the determination of the RI, the finite element model of the 2.3.2. Signal processing
layered acoustic system was excited by an incoming plane wave of The reflected component of the impulse response hr ðtÞ was sep-
amplitude p0 . By subtracting the pressure of the incoming wave arated from the direct component hi ðtÞ by subtraction of the free-
pinc from the total sound pressure ptot in the domain, the pressure field impulse response in the time domain. Spurious reflections
of the reflected wave pref was isolated. The RI was calculated by the were removed from the measured impulse response by the appli-
ratio of the isolated reflected wave and the incoming wave. cation of time windows (wr ðtÞ resp. wi ðtÞ), however, the limited
length of the time windows restricted the measurement method
p ðxÞ  pinc ðxÞ2 pref ðxÞ2 to frequencies above 200 Hz. Ultimately, the RI was calculated as
RIðxÞ ¼  tot  ¼
 p ðxÞ
pinc ðxÞ inc
the energy ratio of the Fourier-transformed incident and reflected
components of the impulse responses in the j-th one-third octave
band Df j via
2.3. Acoustic measurement R 2
Df j jF ½t  hr ðtÞ  wr ðtÞj df
The acoustic measurement procedure is based on the standard- RIj ¼ R 2
; ð48Þ
Df j jF ½t  hi ðtÞ  wi ðtÞj df
ized in-situ measurement procedure for determining the reflection
properties of noise barriers as described in CEN/TS 1793-5 [11] and where F denotes the Fourier transform and f the frequency. The
CEN/TS 16272-5 [33] for road traffic noise and railway noise, multiplication with the propagation time t accounted for the differ-
respectively [24,35]. Detailed information on the principles and ent propagation path lengths of the incident and reflected compo-
uncertainties of the measurement procedure can be found in Garai nents under the assumption of a point source. The result of Eq.
et al. [36]. While the CEN/TS 1793-5 [11] defines the measurement (48) was a one-third octave band spectrum of the absolute value
of the RI for incident angles ranging from -40° to 40° in the hori- of the RI. A weighting with the standardized traffic noise spectrum
zontal and vertical planes, the measurement in our study was lim- Lt;i [37] allows the summarization to a single number rating
ited to the central microphone position only, thereby, influences of
P 0:1Lt;i
i RIi  10
sound absorption phenomena under oblique angles of incidence
DLRI ¼ 10  log10 P 0:1Lt;i ð49Þ
were minimized in accordance with the 1D analytical model and the
i 10
periodic FEM model of a unit cell excited by an incoming plane wave.
of the specimen.
2.3.1. Setup
The basic setup of the measurement method is shown in Fig. 1. 3. Results and discussion
A loudspeaker was placed 1.5 m from the specimen, e.g., a noise
barrier, in front of its center and a microphone was placed in The three methods to determine the RI of a layered system were
between at a distance of 0.25 m from the specimen. Here, an tested and evaluated for different setups. In the first setup, sound
impulse response was measured which consisted of the direct absorbing panels were placed in front of a fully reflective concrete
component emitted by the loudspeaker superposed by the compo- wall at three different distances. In the second setup, a real noise
nent reflected from the specimen as well as spurious reflections barrier was evaluated. The noise barrier consisted of stacked alu-
from surrounding surfaces (e.g., ground, noise barrier posts, guard- minum cassette-elements [8]. All measurements and simulations
rails, etc.). Thereafter, the loudspeaker - microphone configuration were analyzed in the range of the standardized traffic noise spec-
138 P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142

trum 100–5000 Hz [37]. Note that the results from the acoustic with a width d of 4 cm was placed in front of a concrete wall.
measurement were valid above 200 Hz only (compare Section 2.3). The concrete wall was assumed to be rigid (boundary I). The width
of the air gap (layer II) between the absorber and the concrete wall
3.1. Absorbing panel in front of rigid surface b was varied (0 mm; 59 mm and 79 mm). The main parameters of
the absorber, i.e., the tortuosity j, the specific flow resistivity N,
The setup of the layered acoustic system is shown in Fig. 2. and the porosity r (for details see Appendix A.1), were measured
Here, an absorber (layer III) taken from a standard noise barrier or estimated as follows.
N was measured according to EN 29053 [38] and the resulting
value was 30 800 Pa s m2.
r was calculated via the density of the absorber qabsorber which
was approximately 94 kg m3 and the density of the raw material
qraw which was approximately 2600 kg m3:
qabsorber  qraw
r¼  0:96: ð50Þ
b qair  qraw
The tortuosity jabsorber was determined by minimizing the quad-
ratic error between the RI determined from the analytical model
RIana and the measurement RImeas . This was done for frequencies
x between 200 Hz and 5600 Hz in steps of 10 Hz and for all three
I II III IV air gap widths simultaneously.

Fig. 2. Absorbing material III in front of reflecting wall I with air gap II
jabsorber ¼ arg min
; ð51Þ
(b ¼ f0 mm;59 mm;79 mmg).

(a) no airgap (b) 59 mm airgap

(c) 79 mm airgap
Fig. 3. Reflection index (RI) of an absorber in front of a rigid wall evaluated for acoustically measured, analytically calculated, and numerically calculated data. Spectra (thin
lines) and third-octave band means (thick lines).
P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142 139

¼ jRIana ðj; f Þ  RImeas ðf Þj2b¼0 þ
jRIana ðj; f Þ  RImeas ðf Þj2b¼0:059 þ ð52Þ
jRIana ðj; f Þ  RImeas ðf Þj2b¼0:079 ;

The analytically calculated data was derived according to

Section 2.1:
iðrkka Þ sinðka dÞþrkka cosðka dÞð1itanðkbÞÞtanðkbÞsinðka dÞ

RI¼  :

 iðrkk Þ sinðka dÞþrkk cosðka dÞð1þitanðkbÞÞtanðkbÞsinðka dÞ 
Fig. 5. Cross section of the noise-barrier. Details about the layers are listed in
a a
Table 1.

For an air gap of width b ¼ 0 mm, this equation simplifies to

Table 1
  The different parts of the noise barrier (from the left to the right as shown in Figs. 4
1  ir k tanðka dÞ2
 ka  and 5), their thickness d, and their material parameters.
RI ¼   : ð54Þ
1 þ ir kk tanðka dÞ
a n Layer type/interface Width in mm Material parameters

The resulting value for jabsorber was 1.55. I Aluminum plate 1.5 qalu ¼ 2700 kg m3
II Air gap 65 q ¼ 1.2041 kg m3
Fig. 3 shows the comparison between results from the acousti- III Absorber 40 N ¼ 30.8 kPa s m2
cal measurement, the analytical calculation, and the FEM simula- r ¼ 0:96
tion. The figures correspond to an absorber in front of a concrete j ¼ 1:55
wall including an air gap of 0 mm, 59 mm and 79 mm, respectively. IV Air gap 12 q ¼ 1.2041 kg m3
V Perforated plate 1.5 rL  30%
As can be seen, the analytical calculation and the FEM simula-
£ 6 mm (see Eq. (A.4))
tion correspond very well to the results from the acoustical mea-
surement. The small differences can be explained by the
difference of the incident sound field in the calculations and the
For the calculation with the analytical model, both air gaps and
measurement, since a spherical wave and a plane wave were used
the absorber were modeled as layers. The air in the perforations of
in the measurement and the calculations, respectively. As
the front plate was simplified as oscillating mass (A.2), ignoring
expected, the RI for the analytical and the FEM simulation were
influences like flow resistivity. For the aluminum backplate, it
almost identical.
can be seen from measurements, that the sound radiated from
the backplate is orders of magnitude less than the reflected sound.
3.2. Noise barrier Therefore the backplate could be modeled as a fully reflective
boundary for sound reflection simulations, ignoring the backplate
In the subsequent experiment, the determined absorber param- oscillations completely. Nevertheless, to get at least an estimation
eters were used to predict the RI of a cassette-element-based noise of the influence of the backplate oscillations, it was modeled as an
barrier from the given geometry. Figs. 4 and 5 show a rendering of oscillating mass. Since the influence of the oscillating backplate for
the three-dimensional model and a draft of the inner structure of the reflection index is very small and only visible below 200 Hz, it
the noise barrier. A cassette-element consisted of an aluminum could not be confirmed nor refuted by a reflection measurement
back plate, an absorber, a perforated aluminum front plate and and was therefore not included in this paper. In front of the barrier
air gaps. A description of the material parameters is shown in a layer of air was added which was terminated by a Sommerfeld
Table 1.

Fig. 4. Three-dimensional view of the cassette-element-based noise barrier consisting of (I) a back plate, (III) an absorber, (V) a perforated front plate and (II,IV) air gaps. The
orange cuboid represents a periodic unit cell of the noise barrier. Details about the layers are listed in Table 1.
140 P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142

and incoming wave boundary condition (compare Eq. (25)). The 2 mm at the boundaries of the mesh. The element sizes were smal-
analytical solution was not given explicitly, because the system ler than it would be necessary for the wavelengths (down to 6 cm)
matrix was constructed and solved by a computer program accord- used in this simulation, but the fine and round geometry of the
ing to Section 2.1. perforations made a fine mesh necessary. Lagrangian basis func-
In contrast to the analytical calculation, the air in the holes of tions of second order were used in the FEM simulation. To reduce
the perforated front plate was not modeled as an oscillating mass the computational effort of the simulation, only a cutout contain-
in the FEM simulation, but the perforations were modeled in the ing a periodic unit cell of the front plate perforations was modeled
mesh. The aluminum backplate was modeled as an oscillating (Fig. 4) with periodic boundary conditions on all sides. The sound
plate, analog to the analytical model. The unstructured FEM mesh pressure level (SPL) for the whole simulation domain is shown in
consisted of 46136 tetrahedral elements with a an edge length Fig. 6. Similarly to Section 2.1 the excitation was implemented as
down to 0.5 mm around the front plate perforations and up to an incoming plane wave coming from the +x direction (right panel

(a) 500 Hz, 3-D view (b) 500 Hz, side view

(c) 1000 Hz, 3-D view (d) 1000 Hz, side view

(e) 2000 Hz, 3-D view (f) 2000 Hz, side view

(g) 4000 Hz, 3-D view (h) 4000 Hz, side view

90.0 92.5 95 97.5 100.0

Sound pressure [dBSPL ]

Fig. 6. The sound pressure level on the FEM mesh (46136 tetrahedral elements) for four octave band center frequencies in the simulated frequency range. The left column
shows the full 3D unit cell. Note that the performated front plate was not meshed (compare the white holes in the side view, right column) and modeled as a rigid boundary.
P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142 141

To further improve the accuracy, an acoustic FEM formulation

was derived and implemented. This enabled the simulation of a
periodic section of the noise barrier, e.g., the air in the front plate
perforations, in contrast to the purely one-dimensional analytical
model. As expected, the FEM model showed better agreement to
the measurement result than the analytical calculation, particu-
larly for frequencies above 2000 Hz where the influence of the per-
forated front plate became dominant. Finally, the single number
ratings for all three methods were calculated and compared.
The periodic FEM model developed within this study can be
used to calculate the sound reflection properties of any acoustic
layered system. For noise barrier manufacturers, the benefit of this
model lies in the possibility to predict the reflection index already
in the product development phase. Therefore, it can be used to
optimize the inner structure of noise barriers and the parameters
of absorbing materials without the expenses of building and test-
ing noise-barrier prototypes.

Fig. 7. Reflection index (RI) of a cassette-element-based noise barrier. Other details
as in Fig. 3. This study was commissioned and funded by the Austrian
Research Promotion Agency (FFG, project 840444) and the Austrian
Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology
in Fig. 6). The left side (back plate) was modeled as an oscillating (BMVIT). The authors thank Forster Metallbau GmbH and in partic-
mass. The RI was calculated as described in Eq. (47) with the sound ular Robert Reichartzeder for providing noise barrier elements and
pressure ptot of a point on the right panel of the simulation domain. absorbers. Further, we would like to thank TGM – Technologisches
In Fig. 7 a comparison between the acoustic measurement, the Gewerbemuseum and in particular Alexander Niemczanowski for
analytical calculation and the FEM simulation is shown. The ana- the flow resistivity measurements. Finally, we want to thank
lytical model utilized a simple model, based on an oscillating mass Marco Conter for the project management, discussions and internal
(compare Eq. (14)) for the air in the front plate perforations. This review of the paper.
simplification caused inaccurate results for high frequencies
(>2000 Hz), where the front plate perforations become more
important. The FEM simulation didn’t have this shortcoming, since Appendix A. Material properties
the perforations were modeled directly into the mesh, without any
additional simplification. This is the reason for the better agree- A.1. Porous media
ment of the FEM simulation with the measurement for high fre-
quencies. Also the drop of the RI of the measurement between Porous media are materials with a high fraction of air in their
1600 Hz and 2000 Hz is visible in the result of the FEM calculation, volume, e.g. synthetic foams or fibrous materials like rock wool.
although it is slightly shifted to higher frequencies, while the result They inflict flow resistance on moving air which converts part of
of the analytical calculation does not show this drop at all. the kinetic energy to heat. If they are placed in the propagation
Finally, the single number rating according to CEN/TS 1793-5 path of an acoustic wave, they act as acoustic absorbers. The sound
[11] was calculated for the analytical method (DLRI ¼ 7:4), the propagation inside of porous media is given by a modified form of
FEM simulation (DLRI ¼ 7:1) and the measurement result the Helmholtz equation [4] p. 205.
(DLRI ¼ 7:6). When only comparing the DLRI the results indicate
that the analytical calculation may outperform the FEM simula- @2p 2
þ ka p ¼ 0 ðA:1Þ
tions, however, a closer look at the RI spectrum of the analytically @x2
calculated data shows that an overestimation of the RI above sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
2000 Hz seems to cancel out an underestimation below 2000 Hz. pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi Nr
ka ¼ k zðr; j; NÞ ¼ k ji ðA:2Þ
4. Summary and future work
The imaginary part of the complex wave number ka introduces
In this study the reflection properties of multiple acoustic lay- damping to the sound wave. The acoustic properties of porous
ered systems were determined analytically, via FEM simulation absorbers [8,4] are therefore given by the parameters tortuosity
and through acoustic measurements. The aim was to find a model [16] (j), specific flow resistivity [Pa s m2] (N) and porosity [16] (r).
to predict the RI of a noise barrier consisting of aluminum cassette
elements. To achieve this goal, the parameters of the absorbing A.2. Oscillating mass
material inside the noise barrier had to be determined.
An analytical model was derived to calculate the RI for simple A.2.1. Oscillating plate
one-dimensional geometries. Its short computation time allowed The oscillations of a solid plate that is excited by an incident
a fit of the unknown absorber tortuosity based on measurement acoustic wave are dependent on the mass per unit area of the plate.
results of three different absorber configurations. With the thereby
known absorber parameters the analytical model was applied to m00 ¼ q  d ðA:3Þ
the full noise barrier construction, where the perforated front plate
was simplified to an oscillating mass representing the air in the where m00 is the mass per unit area [kg m2], q is the density of the
perforations of the front plate. plate [kg m3] and d is the thickness of the plate [m].
142 P. Reiter et al. / Applied Acoustics 123 (2017) 133–142

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