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Spring-Mass Oscillations:

Hookes Law and Harmonic Motion

Introduction:
The purpose of this lab was to examine Hookes law and investigate the proportionality of force,
distance travelled, and the unique properties of an oscillating spring with an attached mass. Hookes law ,
given by the equation F = kx, states that the restoring force (F) of an extended or compressed spring is
proportional to the distance of compression or elongation (x), and is affected by the springs constant of
proprtionality (k). The experiments were designed to investigate whether real-world spring behavior
would conform to Hookes law. It is hypothesized that observations of the oscillations of a mass moving
the spring (harmonic motion) can be used to calculate the spring constant unique to the spring. Minimal
error between experimental (observed) and theoretical (actual, calculated) spring constants will support
the hypothesis.
Procedure:
The experiment consisted of
two exercises investigating
oscillations of a mass on a spring. A
force sensor was mounted to a ring
stand and base, with the force
measuring hook pointed
perpendicular to the table surface. A
spring was hung from the hook, with
a mass suspended from the spring.
Pulling down on the mass initiated
vertical oscillating motion, with data
recorded by Data Studio on the computer through an SW750 interface.
Data:
T : period of Oscillation (s)
m: mass (kg)
x: distance (m)
t: time (s)
: initial drop angle (degrees)
g: 9.81 (m/s2)
F = ma (N)
F = kx
k = mg/x (N/m)

k
2
k 2
and =

=
m
T
m T
2
2
2
k
2

= k =m
T
m
T
=

( )

( )

Sinusoidal function:

A sin

2 (xC)
+D
B

B=T

Percent Error:

|ObservedExpected
|x 100
Expected

Exercise 1:
Table 1:
Mass (kg)
0.01
0.02
0.03
0.04
0.05
0.06
0.07
0.08
0.09
0.1
0.11
0.12
0.13
0.14
0.15

Force (N)
0.098
0.196
0.294
0.392
0.49
0.588
0.686
0.784
0.882
0.98
1.078
1.176
1.274
1.372
1.47

Displacement (cm)
3.3
6.2
9.5
12.2
15.4
18.3
21.4
24.4
27.3
30.2
33.4
36.3
39.4
42.3
45.4

Displacement (m)
0.033
0.062
0.095
0.122
0.154
0.183
0.214
0.244
0.273
0.302
0.334
0.363
0.394
0.423
0.454

Graph 1:

Exercise 1: Force vs. Displacement


1.600
1.400

f(x) = 3.26x - 0.01


R = 1

1.200
1.000
Force (N)

0.800
0.600
0.400
0.200
0.000
0

0.05

0.1

0.15

0.2

0.25

0.3

Displacement (m)

0.35

0.4

0.45

0.5

Exercise 2:
Table 2:
Mass (kg)
0.02
0.03
0.04
0.05
0.06
0.07
0.08
0.09
0.1
0.11
0.12
0.13
0.14
0.15

T2/42
0.007
0.01
0.013
0.016
0.019
0.022
0.025
0.028
0.032
0.035
0.037
0.041
0.043
0.046

Period (s)
0.538
0.634
0.723
0.802
0.875
0.94
1
1.06
1.12
1.17
1.21
1.27
1.31
1.35

Graph 2: Linear

Exercise 2: Mass vs T2/42


0.16
0.14

f(x) = 3.29x - 0
R = 1

0.12
0.1
Mass (kg)

0.08
0.06
0.04
0.02
0
0.01

0.01

0.02

0.02

0.03

0.03

T2/42

0.04

0.04

0.05

0.05

Graph 3 5cm displacement (Sinusoidal function: Sine of best fit)

Graph 4 - 20cm displacement (Sinusoidal function: Sine of best fit)

Analysis
Exercise 1 recorded the force and displacement of the spring. Hookes law,
rewritten as

k=

F
x

F=kx , can be

(where F is equal to the mass times gravity) to solve for the unknown spring

constant. Analysis of the slope of Graph 1 reveals the expected spring constant (k) to be 3.263 N/m.
Exercise 2 focused on the amplitude of oscillation, to determine which factors most affected
period of harmonic motion. Comparison of sinusoidal functions in Graphs 3 & 4 show the same period
(within 0.0001) with significantly different amplitudes, indicating the period is dependent on the mass
and spring constant. Analysis of Graph 2 reveals the observed spring constant (k) to be 3.2891 N/m.
The percent difference between the experimental and theoretical k values was calculated as
0.80%, indicating that the spring behaved according to Hookes law and all measurements were recorded
accurately.

3.2891 N /m3.263 N /m
x 100 |
|ObservedExpected
|
|x 100 =0.80 Error
Expected
3.263 N /m

Conclusion:
Comparison of the resistance to force (k) of the spring and the springs behavior during harmonic
oscillations revealed conformance to Hookes constant within expected error and standard deviation.
Theoretical calculations assume the spring to be massless and have no effect on the period. The percent
error between k values, however slight, reveals that the spring mass is important in real-world conditions.
Successful experimental identification of the spring constant within standard deviation of the theoretical
value supports the hypothesis that observations of the oscillations of a mass moving the spring (harmonic
motion) can be used to calculate the spring constant unique to the spring. Improvements to consistency
when inducing oscillations and inclusion of the spring mass will further minimize the experimental error.
Overall the experiments successfully demonstrated the conformity of harmonic spring motion to Hookes
law.

Uncertainty Summary
Predicted (a.k.a. Expected) Value:
3.263 N/m
Brief Description of how this is found.
F = kx
Slope of graph: Force vs displacement (x)
List all variables used in finding the predicted
value.
Force (N)
Mass (kg)
Displacement: x (m)

Observed (a.k.a. Measured) Value:


3.2891 N/m
Brief Description of how this is found.

Classify uncertainties contributing.


Both instrumental and random uncertainty
Max/Min See Supplemental Graph 5
Highest possible Value of Expected
3.269 N/m
Lowest Possible Value of Expected
3.2488 N/m

2
T

( )

k =m

Slope of graph: Mass vs T2/42


List all variables used in finding the observed
value.
(Amplitude) Force (N)
Mass (kg)
Displacement: x (m)
Period: T (s)
Classify uncertainties contributing.
Both instrumental and random uncertainty

Do observed and expected agree?


Yes - The ranges overlap, and the best fit slopes
agree within 0.80% error.

Max/Min See Supplemental Graph 6


Highest possible Value of Observed
2.7273 N/m
Lowest Possible Value of Observed
4.1176 N/m

Graph 5 Max/Min for Exercise 1

Exercise 1: Force vs. Displacement


1.600
1.400

3.26x
3.27x - 0.01
f(x) = 3.25x
R = 1

1.200
1.000
Force (N)

0.800
0.600
0.400
0.200
0.000
0

0.05

0.1

0.15

0.2

0.25

0.3

0.35

0.4

0.45

0.5

Displacement (m)

Graph 6 Max/Min for Exercise 2

Exercise 2: Mass vs T2/42


0.18
0.16
f(x) = 4.12x - 0.02
= 3.29x
-0
f(x)f(x)
=R
2.73x
= 1 + 0.01
R
=
1
R = 1

0.14
0.12
0.1
Mass (kg)

0.08
0.06
0.04
0.02
0
0

0.01

0.02

0.03
T2/42

0.04

0.05

0.06