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# Simple Harmonic Motion

## The applied force acting on the spring is

𝐹 = 𝑘𝑥 where
𝐹 is the applied force
𝑘 is the spring constant (N/m)
𝑥 is the displacement from the equilibrium position (m)
The force which the spring exerts back is given by Hooke’s Law:

𝐹S = −𝑘𝑥 .

## From Newton’s Second Law,

𝑘
𝐹S = 𝐹net ⇒ −𝑘𝑥 = 𝑚𝑎 ⇒ 𝑎 = −( )𝑥
𝑚
The negative sign indicates that the direction of the restoring force and the
acceleration is always opposite to the displacement (ie. displacement to the right of equilibrium =
acceleration to the left toward equilibrium, and vice versa).
Springs and Energy
From the graph,
1 1 1
𝑊 = 𝐸P E = 𝐹𝑥 = (𝑘𝑥)𝑥 = 𝑘𝑥 2
2 2 2

1 1
𝐸total = 𝐸k + 𝐸P E = 𝑚𝑣 2 + 𝑘𝑥 2 (I)
2 2
At the ends, the object stops momentarily and 𝑥 = 𝐴 (amplitude, or maximum displacement), so
1 1 1 1
𝐸total = 𝐸k + 𝐸P E = 𝑚𝑣 2 + 𝑘𝑥 2 = 0 + 𝑘𝐴2 = 𝑘𝐴2 (II)
2 2 2 2

1 2 1 1 𝑘
From (I) and (II), we can conclude that 𝑘𝐴 = 𝑚𝑣 2 + 𝑘𝑥 2 or 𝑣 = ±√ ∙ √𝐴2 − 𝑥 2 .
2 2 2 𝑚

𝑘 𝑘
When the object is at the equilibrium position, 𝑥 = 0, then 𝑣 = ±√ ∙ √𝐴2 = ±𝐴√ = 𝑣0 (𝑣max ).
𝑚 𝑚
𝑘 𝑘 𝑥2 𝑘 𝑥2 𝑥2
Then, 𝑣 = ±√ ∙ √𝐴2 − 𝑥 2 = ±√ ∙ √𝐴2 (1 − 2 ) = ±𝐴√ ∙ √1 − 2 = ±𝑣0 √1 − 2 .
𝑚 𝑚 𝐴 𝑚 𝐴 𝐴

Question 1: An object of mass 0.10 kg is attached to a spring with spring constant 𝑘 = 200 N/m. If the
object oscillates between 𝑥 = 0.05 m and 𝑥 = −0.05 m, calculate
a) the total energy.
1 1
𝐸total = 𝑘𝐴2 = (200 N/m)(0.05 m)2 = 0.25 J
2 2
b) the maximum speed.

𝑘 200 N/m
|𝑣0 | = 𝐴√ = (0.05 m)√ = 2.2 m/s
𝑚 0.10 kg

## c) the maximum acceleration.

The maximum acceleration occurs at the ends, when 𝑥 = ±𝐴:
𝑘 𝑘 200 N/m
𝑎0 = − ( ) 𝑥 = − ( ) 𝐴 = − ( ) (±0.05 m) = ∓100 m/s 2
𝑚 𝑚 0.10 kg
This means that the maximum acceleration is 100 m/s 2 right when the object is 0.05 m to the left of the
equilibrium position, or 100 m/s2 left when the object is 0.05 m to the right of the equilibrium position.
Note: In subsequent calculations, we will leave out the negative sign when calculating the acceleration, to
simplify things a bit. However, remember that the acceleration can point in either direction, depending on
the displacement of the object.
Summary
At Equilibrium
𝑥=0

𝑘
𝑣0 = ±𝐴√
𝑚

𝑎=0
At Either End
𝑥=𝐴
𝑣=0
𝑘𝐴
𝑎0 = −
𝑚
Simple Harmonic Motion as Sinusoidal Waves
The position of a mass undergoing Simple
Harmonic Motion is given by
2𝜋𝑡
𝑥 = 𝐴 sin ( ),
𝑇
assuming the mass starts at equilibrium.
𝑑𝑥 2𝜋 2𝜋𝑡 2𝜋𝐴 2𝜋𝑡
𝑣= = (𝐴) ( ) cos ( )= cos ( )
𝑑𝑡 𝑇 𝑇 𝑇 𝑇
𝑑𝑣 𝑑2 𝑥 2𝜋𝐴 2𝜋 2𝜋𝑡
𝑎= = 2 = −( ) ( ) sin ( )
𝑑𝑡 𝑑𝑡 𝑇 𝑇 𝑇
4𝜋 2 𝐴 2𝜋𝑡 4𝜋 2 2𝜋𝑡
𝑎=− 2
sin ( ) = − ( 2 ) (𝐴 sin ( ))
𝑇 𝑇 𝑇 𝑇

4𝜋 2
∴ 𝑎 = −( )𝑥
𝑇2
𝑘
…compare this with 𝑎 = − ( ) 𝑥:
𝑚
Since 𝑎 = −(constant)𝑥 in both equations,
4𝜋 2 𝑘
constant = = ⇒ 𝑘𝑇 2 = 4𝜋 2 𝑚
𝑇2 𝑚
𝑚
Rearrange to get 𝑇 = 2𝜋√
𝑘

1 1 𝑘
or 𝑓= = √
𝑇 2𝜋 𝑚

The preceding formula gives the relationship between the period of oscillation of a mass on a spring, the
mass, and the spring constant.
Question 2: A mass of 4 kg is attached to a horizontal spring with 𝑘 = 100 N/m. The object is displaced
10 cm and released. Assume a frictionless surface. Determine
a) the amplitude.
𝐴 = 10 cm
b) the period.

𝑚 4 kg
𝑇 = 2𝜋√ = 2𝜋√ = 1.26 s (1 s with correct significant figures)
𝑘 100 N/m

c) the frequency.
1 1 rev
𝑓= = = 0.8 rev/s = 0.8 Hz (Note: 1 Hz = 1 rev/s)
𝑇 1.26 s
d) the total mechanical energy.
1 1
𝐸total = 𝐸P E = 𝑘𝐴2 = (100 N/m)(0.1 m)2 = 0.5 J
max 2 2
Alternatively, we could calculate the maximum speed as shown in e) and find the total energy by
1 1
𝐸total = 𝐸K max = 𝑚𝑣0 2 = (4 kg)(0.5 m/s)2 = 0.5 J
2 2
e) the maximum speed.

𝑘 100 N/m
|𝑣0 | = 𝐴√ = (0.1 m)√ = 0.5 m/s
𝑚 4 kg

## f) the maximum acceleration.

𝑘 100 N/m
𝑎0 = ( ) 𝐴 = ( ) (0.1 m) = 2.5 m/s2
𝑚 4 kg
g) the velocity and acceleration when the object is 5 cm from the equilibrium position.

𝑘 100 N/m
𝑣 = ±√ ∙ √𝐴2 − 𝑥 2 = ±√ ∙ √(0.1 m)2 − (0.05 m)2 = ±0.4 m/s
𝑚 4 kg

𝑘 100 N/m
𝑎 = ( )𝑥 = ( ) (0.05 m) = 1.25 m/s 2
𝑚 4 kg
Comparing Simple Harmonic Motion to Uniform Circular Motion

𝑣 √𝐴2 − 𝑥 2 𝑣max
𝑣max sin 𝜃 = = ⇒ 𝑣= √𝐴2 − 𝑥 2
𝜃 𝑣max 𝐴 𝐴
𝑣 𝑑 2𝜋𝐴
Since 𝑣max = = ,
𝐴 𝑡 𝑇
√𝐴2 − 𝑥 2
𝜃 2𝜋
𝑣= √𝐴2 − 𝑥 2
𝑥 𝑇

2𝜋𝐴 𝑘 2𝜋 𝑘
(Note: 𝑣𝑚𝑎𝑥 = = 𝐴√ so =√ )
𝑇 𝑚 𝑇 𝑚

## Natural Frequency and Resonance

A mass oscillating on a spring does so with a specific period given by
𝑚
𝑇 = 2𝜋√ .
𝑘
That spring has a corresponding frequency called the natural, or resonant, frequency, 𝑓0:

1 1 𝑘
𝑓0 = = √
𝑇 2𝜋 𝑚

All materials and structures have a natural frequency. If an external force acting on the structure has a
frequency close or equal to 𝑓0, it causes the vibrations of the structure to be amplified; this is called
resonance. To prevent catastrophic damage (eg. opera singer breaking glass), the frequencies in contact
with the structure must be different from 𝑓0.