By decomposing the acoustic wave equation into incoming and outgoing components, an absorbing boundary condition can be derived to eliminate reflections from plane waves according to their direction of propagation. This boundary condition is characterized by a first-order differential operator. The differential operator, or absorbing boundary operator, is the basic element from which more complicated boundary conditions can be constructed.The absorbing boundary operator can be designed to absorb perfectly plane waves traveling in any two directions. By combining two or more absorption operators, boundary conditions can be created which absorb plane waves propagating in any number of directions. Absorbing boundary operators simplify the task of designing boundary conditions to reduce the detrimental effects of outgoing waves in many wave propagation problems.

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