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In physics, attenuation (in some contexts also called extinction) is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium. For instance, sunlight is attenuated by dark glasses, X-rays are attenuated by lead, and light and sound are attenuated by water.

In electrical engineering and telecommunications, attenuation affects the propagation of waves and signals in electrical circuits, in optical fibers, as well as in air (radio waves).



In many cases, attenuation is an exponential function of the path length through the medium. In chemical spectroscopy, this is known as the Beer-Lambert law.

In engineering, attenuation is usually measured in units of decibels per unit length of medium (dB/cm, dB/km, etc.) and is represented by the attenuation coefficient of the medium in question.[1]

Attenuation also occurs in earthquakes; when the seismic waves move farther away from the epicenter, they grow smaller as they are attenuated by the ground.


One area of research in which attenuation figures strongly is in ultrasound physics. Attenuation in ultrasound is the reduction in amplitude of the ultrasound beam as a function of distance through the imaging medium. Accounting for attenuation effects in ultrasound is important because a reduced signal amplitude can affect the quality of the image produced. By knowing the attenuation that an ultrasound beam experiences traveling through a medium, one can adjust the input signal amplitude to compensate for any loss of energy at the desired imaging depth.[2]

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