Acoustic emission (AE) measurements of avalanches in different systems, such as domain movements in ferroics or the collapse of voids in porous materials, cannot be compared with model predictions without a detailed analysis of the AE process. In particular, most AE experiments scale the avalanche energy E, maximum amplitude Amax and duration D as E ~ Amaxx and Amax ~ Dχ with x = 2 and a poorly defined power law distribution for the duration. In contrast, simple mean field theory (MFT) predicts that x = 3 and χ = 2. The disagreement is due to details of the AE measurements: the initial acoustic strain signal of an avalanche is modified by the propagation of the acoustic wave, which is then measured by the detector. We demonstrate, by simple model simulations, that typical avalanches follow the observed AE results with x = 2 and ‘half-moon’ shapes for the cross-correlation. Furthermore, the size S of an avalanche does not always scale as the square of the maximum AE avalanche amplitude Amax as predicted by MFT but scales linearly S ~ Amax. We propose that the AE rise time reflects the atomistic avalanche time profile better than the duration of the AE signal.
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