In physics and mathematics, the phase of a periodic function of some real variable (such as time) is an angle-like quantity representing the number of periods spanned by that variable. It is denoted and expressed in such a scale that it varies by one full turn as the variable goes through each period (and goes through each complete cycle). It may be measured in any angular unit such as degrees or radians, thus increasing by 360° or as the variable completes a full period.
This convention is especially appropriate for a sinusoidal function, since its value at any argument then can be expressed as the sine of the phase , multiplied by some factor (the amplitude of the sinusoid). (The cosine may be used instead of sine, depending on where one considers each period to start.)
Usually, whole turns are ignored when expressing the phase; so that is also a periodic function, with the same period as , that repeatedly scans the same range of angles as goes through each period. Then, is said to be "at the same phase" at two argument values and (that is, ) if the difference between them is a whole number of periods.
The numeric value of the phase depends on the arbitrary choice of the start of each period, and on the interval of angles that each period is to be mapped to.
The term "phase" is also used when comparing a periodic function with a shifted version of it. If the shift in is expressed as a fraction of the period, and then scaled to an angle spanning a whole turn, one gets the phase shift, phase offset, or phase difference of relative to . If is a "canonical" function for a class of signals, like is for all sinusoidal signals, then is called the initial phase of .
Let be a periodic signal (that is, a function of one real variable), and be its period (that is, the smallest positive real number such that for all ). Then the phase of at any argument is
Here denotes the fractional part of a real number, discarding its integer part; that is, ; and is an arbitrary "origin" value of the argument, that one considers to be the beginning of a cycle.
This concept can be visualized by imagining a clock with a hand that turns at constant speed, making a full turn every seconds, and is pointing straight up at time . The phase is then the angle from the 12:00 position to the current position of the hand, at time , measured clockwise.
The phase concept is most useful when the origin is chosen based on features of . For example, for a sinusoid, a convenient choice is any where the function's value changes from zero to positive.
The formula above gives the phase as an angle in radians between 0 and . To get the phase as an angle between and , one uses instead
The phase expressed in degrees (from 0° to 360°, or from −180° to +180°) is defined the same way, except with "360°" in place of "2π".
With any of the above definitions, the phase of a periodic signal is periodic too, with the same period :
The phase is zero at the start of each period; that is
Moreover, for any given choice of the origin , the value of the signal for any argument depends only on its phase at . Namely, one can write , where is a function of an angle, defined only for a single full turn, that describes the variation of as ranges over a single period.
In fact, every periodic signal with a specific waveform can be expressed as
where is a "canonical" function of a phase angle in 0 to 2π, that describes just one cycle of that waveform; and is a scaling factor for the amplitude. (This claim assumes that the starting time chosen to compute the phase of corresponds to argument 0 of .)
Since phases are angles, any whole full turns should usually be ignored when performing arithmetic operations on them. That is, the sum and difference of two phases (in degrees) should be computed by the formulas
respectively. Thus, for example, the sum of phase angles 190° + 200° is 30° (190 + 200 = 390, minus one full turn), and subtracting 50° from 30° gives a phase of 340° (30 - 50 = −20, plus one full turn).
Similar formulas hold for radians, with instead of 360.
The difference between the phases of two periodic signals and is called the phase difference or phase shift of relative to . At values of when the difference is zero, the two signals are said to be in phase, otherwise they are out of phase with each other.
In the clock analogy, each signal is represented by a hand (or pointer) of the same clock, both turning at constant but possibly different speeds. The phase difference is then the angle between the two hands, measured clockwise.
The phase difference is particularly important when two signals are added together by a physical process, such as two periodic sound waves emitted by two sources and recorded together by a microphone. This is usually the case in linear systems, when the superposition principle holds.
For arguments when the phase difference is zero, the two signals will have the same sign and will be reinforcing each other. One says that constructive interference is occurring. At arguments when the phases are different, the value of the sum depends on the waveform.
For sinusoidal signals, when the phase difference is 180° ( radians), one says that the phases are opposite, and that the signals are in antiphase. Then the signals have opposite signs, and destructive interference occurs. Conversely, a phase reversal or phase inversion implies a 180-degree phase shift.
When the phase difference is a quarter of turn (a right angle, +90° = π/2 or −90° = 270° = −π/2 = 3π/2), sinusoidal signals are sometimes said to be in quadrature (e.g., in-phase and quadrature components).
If the frequencies are different, the phase difference increases linearly with the argument . The periodic changes from reinforcement and opposition cause a phenomenon called beating.
The phase difference is especially important when comparing a periodic signal with a shifted and possibly scaled version of it. That is, suppose that for some constants and all . Suppose also that the origin for computing the phase of has been shifted too. In that case, the phase difference is a constant (independent of ), called the phase shift or phase offset of relative to . In the clock analogy, this situation corresponds to the two hands turning at the same speed, so that the angle between them is constant.
In this case, the phase shift is simply the argument shift , expressed as a fraction of the common period (in terms of the modulo operation) of the two signals and then scaled to a full turn:
If is a "canonical" representative for a class of signals, like is for all sinusoidal signals, then the phase shift called simply the initial phase of .
Therefore, when two periodic signals have the same frequency, they are always in phase, or always out of phase. Physically, this situation commonly occurs, for many reasons. For example, the two signals may be a periodic soundwave recorded by two microphones at separate locations. Or, conversely, they may be periodic soundwaves created by two separate speakers from the same electrical signal, and recorded by a single microphone. They may be a radio signal that reaches the receiving antenna in a straight line, and a copy of it that was reflected off a large building nearby.
A well-known example of phase difference is the length of shadows seen at different points of Earth. To a first approximation, if is the length seen at time at one spot, and is the length seen at the same time at a longitude 30° west of that point, then the phase difference between the two signals will be 30° (assuming that, in each signal, each period starts when the shadow is shortest).
For sinusoidal signals (and a few other waveforms, like square or symmetric triangular), a phase shift of 180° is equivalent to a phase shift of 0° with negation of the amplitude. When two signals with these waveforms, same period, and opposite phases are added together, the sum is either identically zero, or is a sinusoidal signal with the same period and phase, whose amplitude is the difference of the original amplitudes.
The phase shift of the co-sine function relative to the sine function is +90°. It follows that, for two sinusoidal signals and with same frequency and amplitudes and , and has phase shift +90° relative to , the sum is a sinusoidal signal with the same frequency, with amplitude and phase shift from , such that
A real-world example of a sonic phase difference occurs in the warble of a Native American flute. The amplitude of different harmonic components of same long-held note on the flute come into dominance at different points in the phase cycle. The phase difference between the different harmonics can be observed on a spectrogram of the sound of a warbling flute.
Phase comparison is a comparison of the phase of two waveforms, usually of the same nominal frequency. In time and frequency, the purpose of a phase comparison is generally to determine the frequency offset (difference between signal cycles) with respect to a reference.
A phase comparison can be made by connecting two signals to a two-channel oscilloscope. The oscilloscope will display two sine signals, as shown in the graphic to the right. In the adjacent image, the top sine signal is the test frequency, and the bottom sine signal represents a signal from the reference.
If the two frequencies were exactly the same, their phase relationship would not change and both would appear to be stationary on the oscilloscope display. Since the two frequencies are not exactly the same, the reference appears to be stationary and the test signal moves. By measuring the rate of motion of the test signal the offset between frequencies can be determined.
Vertical lines have been drawn through the points where each sine signal passes through zero. The bottom of the figure shows bars whose width represents the phase difference between the signals. In this case the phase difference is increasing, indicating that the test signal is lower in frequency than the reference.
The phase of an oscillation or signal refers to a sinusoidal function such as the following:
where , , and are constant parameters called the amplitude, frequency, and phase of the sinusoid. These signals are periodic with period , and they are identical except for a displacement of along the axis. The term phase can refer to several different things:
Additive synthesis is a sound synthesis technique that creates timbre by adding sine waves together.
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In physics, interference is a phenomenon in which two waves superpose to form a resultant wave of greater, lower, or the same amplitude. Constructive and destructive interference result from the interaction of waves that are correlated or coherent with each other, either because they come from the same source or because they have the same or nearly the same frequency. Interference effects can be observed with all types of waves, for example, light, radio, acoustic, surface water waves, gravity waves, or matter waves. The resulting images or graphs are called interferograms.
In mechanics and physics, simple harmonic motion is a special type of periodic motion where the restoring force on the moving object is directly proportional to the object's displacement magnitude and acts towards the object's equilibrium position. It results in an oscillation which, if uninhibited by friction or any other dissipation of energy, continues indefinitely.
In signal processing, group delay is the time delay of the amplitude envelopes of the various sinusoidal components of a signal through a device under test, and is a function of frequency for each component. Phase delay, in contrast, is the time delay of the phase as opposed to the time delay of the amplitude envelope.
Phase-shift keying (PSK) is a digital modulation process which conveys data by changing (modulating) the phase of a constant frequency reference signal. The modulation is accomplished by varying the sine and cosine inputs at a precise time. It is widely used for wireless LANs, RFID and Bluetooth communication.
In electrical engineering, electrical impedance is the measure of the opposition that a circuit presents to a current when a voltage is applied.
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A chirp is a signal in which the frequency increases (up-chirp) or decreases (down-chirp) with time. In some sources, the term chirp is used interchangeably with sweep signal. It is commonly applied to sonar, radar, and laser systems, and to other applications, such as in spread-spectrum communications. This signal type is biologically inspired and occurs as a phenomenon due to dispersion. It is usually compensated for by using a matched filter, which can be part of the propagation channel. Depending on the specific performance measure, however, there are better techniques both for radar and communication. Since it was used in radar and space, it has been adopted also for communication standards. For automotive radar applications, it is usually called linear frequency modulated waveform (LFMW).
In electric and electronic systems, reactance is the opposition of a circuit element to the flow of current due to that element's inductance or capacitance. Greater reactance leads to smaller currents for the same voltage applied. Reactance is similar to electric resistance in this respect, but differs in that reactance does not lead to dissipation of electrical energy as heat. Instead, energy is stored in the reactance, and a quarter-cycle later returned to the circuit, whereas a resistance continuously loses energy.
A sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth periodic oscillation. A sine wave is a continuous wave. It is named after the function sine, of which it is the graph. It occurs often in both pure and applied mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other fields. Its most basic form as a function of time (t) is:
The Josephson effect is the phenomenon of supercurrent, a current that flows continuously without any voltage applied, across a device known as a Josephson junction (JJ), which consists of two or more superconductors coupled by a weak link. The weak link can consist of a thin insulating barrier, a short section of non-superconducting metal (S-N-S), or a physical constriction that weakens the superconductivity at the point of contact (S-s-S).
In physics and engineering, a phasor, is a complex number representing a sinusoidal function whose amplitude (A), angular frequency (ω), and initial phase (θ) are time-invariant. It is related to a more general concept called analytic representation, which decomposes a sinusoid into the product of a complex constant and a factor depending on time and frequency. The complex constant, which depends on amplitude and phase, is known as a phasor, or complex amplitude, and sinor or even complexor.
Instantaneous phase and frequency are important concepts in signal processing that occur in the context of the representation and analysis of time-varying functions. The instantaneous phase of a complex-valued function s(t), is the real-valued function:
In electrical engineering, a sinusoid with angle modulation can be decomposed into, or synthesized from, two amplitude-modulated sinusoids that are offset in phase by one-quarter cycle. All three functions have the same center frequency. Such amplitude modulated sinusoids are known as the in-phase and quadrature components. In some contexts it is more convenient to refer to only the amplitude modulation (baseband) itself by those terms.
A phase detector characteristic is a function of phase difference describing the output of the phase detector.
Phase reduction is a method used to reduce a multi-dimensional dynamical equation describing a nonlinear limit cycle oscillator into a one-dimensional phase equation. Many phenomena in our world such as chemical reactions, electric circuits, mechanical vibrations, cardiac cells, and spiking neurons are examples of rhythmic phenomena, and can be considered as nonlinear limit cycle oscillators.
In physics, a sinusoidalplane wave is a special case of plane wave: a field whose value varies as a sinusoidal function of time and of the distance from some fixed plane.
Self-mixing or back-injection laser interferometry is an interferometric technique in which a part of the light reflected by a vibrating target is reflected into the laser cavity, causing a modulation both in amplitude and in frequency of the emitted optical beam. In this way, the laser becomes sensitive to the distance traveled by the reflected beam thus becoming a distance, speed or vibration sensor. The advantage compared to a traditional measurement system is a lower cost thanks to the absence of collimation optics and external photodiodes.
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