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To determine the internal resistance of a cell by a potentiometer.


Theory:
The potentiometer primarily measures
potential difference. The potentiometer
circuit is shown in the figure 1. AB is a
length of uniform resistive wire. Terminals X
and Y are connected across the potential
difference (V1) being measured in the same
way as those of a voltmeter would be.
If the positive terminal of the driving cell is
connected to X (as shown in the diagram),
then X must be connected to the positive side
of the potential difference (V1) being
measured.
The potentiometer is said to be balanced
when the jockey (sliding contact) is at such a
position on AB that there is no current
through the galvanometer.
At balance, IG = 0, and therefore
I = I1;(by applying kirchhoffs 1st law at C)
And so
I2 = 0 ;(by applying kirchhoffs 1st law at A)

Rh

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Therefore,

Potential at X

= Potential at A (since I2 = 0)

And,

Potential at Y

= Potential at C (since IG = 0)

Therefore, Potential difference between X and Y =


Potential difference between A and C
i.e.
V1 = I (R1) ; where R1 is resistance of wire between points A and C.


Now, let

R1
L1
; where L1 is length of wire between points A and C.

V1 I L1

Therefore we have
.(1)
If V1 is replaced by another potential difference V2 and a new balance length L2 is found, then

V2 I L2

.(2)

V1 L1

V 2 L2
Dividing equation (1) by equation (2) gives

..(3)

Thus, by measuring the respective balance lengths, two potential differences can be compared.
At balances, IG =I2 = 0, and therefore no current is drawn from the potential differences being compared.
Cell or any other source which supplies a potential difference to the circuit to which it is connected, has
within it some resistance called internal resistance. When there is no current in the cell i.e., at open
circuit, the potential difference E between its terminal is maximum and is called its electromotive force
(e.m.f.). When the cell is discharging i.e., at closed circuit, its terminal potential difference between its
terminal is reduced to V because of internal drop of potential across its internal resistance r.
R

K2
E1

A
K1
DC
Power Supply

C
Rh
B

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Figure- 2 : Finding internal resistance of a cell by a potentiometer.
In the above figure the balance point for the cell E1 whose internal resistance r is to be determined , is
found out as usual , at a distance L1 from the end A of the potentiometer with the key K2 open .

E1 I L1

.(4)
Then the resistance R is introduced in the resistance box and the key K2 is closed, now i current is
flowing through the circuit ( through external resistances R and internal resistance r ). the potential
difference between the terminals of the cell E1 falls because of internal drop of potential across its
internal resistance r.

E1 = Potential difference between the terminals + lost voltage in the cell

E1 iR ir V ir
As E1 and V are the potential differences between the terminals of the cell at the open and closed
circuits.
A balance point is now found at a distance L2 from the end A of the potentiometer and V is the potential
difference between the terminals of the cell at closed circuit. Therefore

V iR I L2

.(5)
from equation (4) and (5) we have

E1 L1

V
L2

iR ir L1

iR
L2
or

L1

1 R
L2

i.e.
.(6)
By knowing L1 , L2 and R we can determine internal resistance of a cell by equation (6)

Apparatus :
Potentiometer,
wires.

DC power supply, Cell E1 , Resistance box , Rheostat (Rh) , Galvanometer , Connecting

Connection :
Connect the positive terminal of the DC power supply to the screw A (end A) of the potentiometer and the
negative terminal of the DC power supply through a rheostat (Rh) to the screw B (end B) of the
potentiometer with a key K1 (crocodile clip of the wire can be as key K1, when clip is connected K1 (circuit)
is closed). Join the positive terminal of the cell E1 to the screw A of the potentiometer and negative
terminal of the cell E1 through the galvanometer G to the jockey J. Also connect the resistance box (R)
through a key K2 to the two terminals of the cell E1.
Procedure:
1. Adjust a small resistance in the rheostat Rh and close the key K1 by connecting crocodile clip to the
DC power supply. Keep the key K2 open(do not connect resistance R with battery at the beginning)

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2.

At first press the jockey near point the end A and then near the end B of the potentiometer wire. If the
galvanometer deflections are in the same direction, then either the resistance in the Rh is too great or
voltage of the DC power supply is too small. Decrease the resistance in Rh or increase the voltage in
the DC power supply until the opposite deflections are obtained at the two ends A and B.
Adjustment of Rh should be such that as to get a null point on the 9th or 10th wire.

3. Now find out the balance point accurately when K1 is closed and K2 is open . Open the key K1 and
calculate the distance L1 of the balance point from the end A of the potentiometer wire. Determine L1
three times and calculate the mean value of L1.
4. Close the key K2 (connect resistance R with battery) by connecting crocodile clip without
changing Rh and take out a resistance 10 ohms from the resistance box and determine the balance
point from end A of the potentiometer and find the length L2 of the balance point from the end A. Then
remove 20, 30, 40, 50 ohms from resistance box and determine the value of L2 in each case.
5. Calculate the value of r using the relation (6) for each value of R and then calculate the mean value of
r.

Discussions:
1) The internal resistance of a cell depends on the strength of the current. It decreases as the current
increases. It is , therefore, better to change the external resistance over a range of 40 ohms and then to
calculate the mean values of r.
2) After every reading, the key K1 should be opened to allow the wire to cool.
3) Care should be taken to see that K2 is open when determining l2.
4) The internal resistance of a cell can be determined with voltmeter and ammeter also but this method is
more accurate.

Data sheet:
Resistance

Mean
of

Resistance

In

Value
of

In

Value
Of

Internal resistance

Mean

L1

L1

L2

r
of the cell

ohms

cm

cm

ohms

cm

ohms

r 1 1 R
L2

10
Key

Both
Key

K1
Closed

K1
and

and
K2

infinity

20
30

K2
closed

40

ohms

6
open

50

Calculation:

r 1 1 R
L2

= ..

Error calculation:
n

r r
i 1

n 1

Results :

r r
Internal resistance of the cell,

= .ohms
Sample oral Questions and Answers
Experiment No: 02

1.

What do you understand by the internal resistance of a cell?


Ans: When the external circuit is complete, within the cell (or battery) a current flow from the plate
at a lower potential to the plate at higher potential and the medium between the plates offers a
resistance to the flow of current. This resistance is known as the internal resistance of the cell.

2.

On what factors does the internal resistance of cell depend?


Ans: It depends on (a) the conductivity of the medium between the plates. (b) The distance between
the plates (c) the area of those portions of the plates that are immersed in the electrolytes.

3. What do you mean by e.m.f. of a cell?


Ans : The e.m.f. of a cell is the driving force which drives electric current through the circuit and is
caused by the chemical changes taking place in the cell and has a definite direction.
4. What is the difference between e.m.f and potential difference?
Ans : Electromotive force is the sum of the potential drops in both external and internal circuits
and is the total driving force of the current in the circuit. It has a definite direction. The potential
difference between two points in the circuit is the product of the current and the resistance between
these two points. Hence the magnitude and direction of potential difference depends on those of the

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current where as the e.m.f. of the circuit is constant both in magnitude and direction. E.M.F. is
present both in the open and closed circuit while potential difference is present in the closed circuit.
5.

If even with correct connections, deflections on the first and last wires are in same direction for the
cell, what would you do?
Ans : The current sent by the driver cell is such that the total potential drop across the wire is
greater than the e.m.f. of one cell but less than the e.m.f. of the other cell. The potentiometer current
is to be increased by diminishing the rheostat resistance.

6. Does the resistance of the galvanometer interfere with the position of the null point?
Ans : No, it saves the galvanometer from damage.
7. How can you increase the sensitiveness of the potentiometer?
Ans : By increasing the balancing length of the potentiometer as long as possible.
8. What kind of wire would you use as the potentiometer wire and why?
Ans : The material should be so chosen that it may have high resistance ( such as eureka ,
manganin , etc.). Otherwise the fall of potential will not be sufficient even for the whole length of
the wire. They should have also low temperature coefficient of resistance.
9.

If the wire be heated by the passage of current, would the null point change?
Ans : Yes , since the resistance of the wire changes with the change of temperature. Hence the
potentiometer circuit should be closed only for the time during which the null point is determined.

Potential at X
(since I2 = 0)
Potential at Y
(since IG = 0)

Potential at A
=

Potential at C ;

Therefore,
Potential difference between X and Y
= Potential difference between A
and C
i.e.
V1 = I (R1) ;
Where R1 is resistance of wire between
points A and C.

R1
L1

Now, let
;
Where L1 is length of wire between
points A and C.
Therefore we have

V1 I L1

.(1)

Rh

1. If negative terminal of the DC power supply (Driving cell) in the diagram below is connected to
point A, then will the null point occur? Why?
Ans: No.
2. After getting one null point, the circuit should be left open for 2-3 minutes before the determination
of the next null point is taken up. Why?
Ans: Resistance changes.
3. If resistance of the rheostat (Rh) is increased and others are kept constant, then where does the null
point occur; closer or further from the point A? Why?

V1 I L1

Ans: Further from the point A.


We know
decreased. As V1 is constant therefore L1 is increased.

. When Rh is increased current I is

4.

If DC power supply voltage (Driving battery) is smaller than that of cell voltage ( E1) . Will the
null point occur? Why?
Ans: No
5. If voltage of the DC power supply voltage(Driving cell) is increased and others are kept constant,
then where does the null point occur; closer or further from the point A? Why?

V1 I L1

Ans: Closer to the point A. We know


. When DC power supply voltage(Driving
cell) is increased current I is increased. As V1 is constant therefore L1 is decreased.
6. If resistance R is connected to the cell E1 then where does the null point occur; closer or further
from the point A? Why?

V1 I L1

Ans: Closer to the point A. We know


constant therefore L1 is decreased.
Pre-Lab Exercise:
1. What would you expect the
voltmeter in the adjacent circuit to do
when the potentiometer wiper is
moved to the right?
........................................................................................
........................................................................................

. When V1 is decreased and current I is

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2. Which way would you have to move
the potentiometer wiper, to the left or to
the right, in order to increase current
through resistor R1 in the adjacent
circuit?
.......................................................................................
.......................................................................................

3. What is the difference between e.m.f and potential difference?


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............................................................................................................................................................................
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............................................................................................................................................................................

4. Why does internal resistance of a battery occur?


............................................................................................................................................................................
............................................................................................................................................................................

5. If resistance of the rheostat (Rh) is


increased and others are kept
constant in the adjacent circuit,
then where does the null point
occur; closer or further from the
point A? And why?
.................................................................
.................................................................

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Rh

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