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Damped Oscillations

Learning Outcomes (what skills you will acquire)

Having completed this experiment you will have

Understood galvanometers and how they can be used to measure small

currents

Built electrical circuits

Understood the accuracy and precision to which current can be measured

Investigated damped oscillations using a Ballistic Galvanometer

1. What its about

Accurate measurement of current and voltage in electrical circuits is key to the

development of experimental physics. At the heart of nearly all electrical and

electronic apparatus is a device which measures voltage or current. Often we are

trying to measure very small effects, so accurate measurements are crucial.

In this practical you will be using a galvanometer to measure extremely small

currents. You will learn how current and voltage are divided across different

components of a circuit.

2. Preparatory Task

Read the entire script; familiarise yourself with the learning outcomes and skills

required. If you are not confident in having acquired the skills you will be using

today, make use of the web resource where you can gain further practice. Write a

short paragraph in your lab book giving details about the experiment, its aims and a

brief outline of the theory behind the experiment.

Read sections 25.5 of Tipler (5

th

edition)

which describe potential and current

dividers.

If ( ) P G + is much larger than R, then

the total resistance of the galvanometer

part can be approximated to R. The

resistors Q and R form a potential

divider If Q is much larger than R, the

potential difference, V

R

is small. Write down an expression that gives V

R

in terms of E,

Q and R and evaluate the resistance Q required to produce a voltage drop V

R

of

4

5 10 V

of the circuit is given by

( )

1 1 1

+

+

Total

R R P G

.]

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 2

The resistance R and the combination of P and G in

parallel with R act as a current divider, limiting the

current flowing through the galvanomet er.

By explicitly writing Ohms law for each leg of the

current divider, and using you expression for the voltage,

V

R

that you found above, show that the current flowing

through the combination of P and G is given by:

( )

( ) ( )( )

R

P G

V ER

I

P G R Q P G

+

+ + +

(1)

[1 Mark]

2.1 Experimental Preparation

The Galvanometer

If you look closely at an analogue ammeter

or voltmeter you will see that there the

deflection of the arm to give the reading is

controlled through a magnetic coil.

A galvanometer consists of a coil of wire

would around a plastic former. This is

suspended between the poles of a magnet.

When current is passed to the galvanometer

coil, it produces a magnetic field which

interacts with the field produced by the

permanent magnet. This torque, causes the

coil to rotate, and a pointer fixed to the coil

to move. The galvanometer you will be using

has a mirror attached to the coil, light is

reflected from the mirror onto the scale on

the front of the machine.

Identify the d.c. power supply E, the hand-held multimeter and the 1 resistor, R, on

the desk in front of you.

Identify the resistance boxes (labelled P, Q and S in the script). By turning the dials

on the resistance boxes, the resistance can be varied from a few ohms up-to several

thousand ohms.

Task 1:

Quickly check each of the resistance boxes P, Q and S. What is the reported

accuracy of the resistance boxes? Measure the resistance of the boxes with the dials

set at 4 different values using the hand held multimeter. Do your measurements agree,

within error, with what the dials say? Make sure that you check that there are no

systematic errors over the entire range of the resistance boxes. What is the error on

the readings for the different scales? [1 Mark]

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 3

3. Ready to Start

In this experiment you will use the galvanometer as a voltmeter.

The resistance of the galvanometer is governed by the metallic coil. Typical values of

resistance of metallic coils are in the range of 1 to 1000. This range is controlled by

the composition and amount of the coil material. Therefore, in order to use a

galvanometer as a sensitive voltmeter we will need to add a large resistance in series

with it. Recall from skills session 1 that the resistance of a voltmeter should be very

high.

YOU SHOULD HAVE REACHED THIS STAGE WITHIN 20mins

One of the principal reasons for using a galvanometer is their sensitivity to very small

currents. We will therefore need to limit the voltage that will be dropped across the

galvanometer, and hence the current that flows through it. To achieve this we

construct potential and current dividers.

The galvanometer with the resistance box P in series with it act as a voltmeter,

measuring the voltage drop across the 1 resistor, V

R

. The current that flows through

the galvanometer part of the circuit is supplied by this potential difference. V

R

is made

small by dropping the source voltage E (approx 5V) across the potential divider Q and

R, with Q much larger than R.

The current flowing through the combination of P and G will induce a torque on the

galvanometer coil which in turn will deflect the light beam a distance d, the

magnitude of d being proportional to the current flow:

d I so we can write that d kI (2)

What are the SI units of k? In what units should you record the deflection?

The constant of proportionality k is defined as the current sensitivity, and so from

equation (1) we can say that:

( ) ( )

E R

d k

P G R Q

+ +

(3)

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 4

In this experimental configuration, setting P=1,000 and Q=10,000 should produce

a current flow of approximately

7

5 10

produce a torque displacing the beam on the galvanometer by a couple of centimetres.

4. Measurements: Finding the Internal Resistance of the Galvanometer

Equation (3) can be re-arranged into the following forms:

RE k

P G

R Q d

+

+

OR

RE k

P G

R Q d

+

(4)

The values of k and G can be found by varying P and recording the displacement of

the galvanometer beam.

Task 4:

Set the power supply to give 5V. Record its value and uncertainty in your lab book.

Construct the circuit below using the components you have already identified.

Initially set 1000 P and 10,000 Q . This should cause the beam to move by a

couple of centimetres. Reduce P and increase Q to keep the deflection on the scale.

Continue until P is zero and then adjust Q to give an almost full scale deflection.

Then keep Q fixed and make a note of its value and uncertainty in your lab book.

Now make a series of measurements of the deflection d as P is increased.

From equation (4), a plot of P against

1

d

will give a straight line with an intercept

of G. However, as it is P that we are varying (the dependent variable), this should be

plotted on the x axis. The straight line graph you should plot is

P G

d k k

+ (c.f.

y mx c + ) where

RE

R Q

+

. Calculate and its error, and use a spreadsheet to

generate the data in a form that will be suitable for plotting.

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 5

[Hint: The % errors on R, E, Q are all approximately 1%. The error on R+Q is the

same as that of Q alone. Thus, we can approximate the error on as being 3%]

Use Excel and Linest to find the slope and intercept of your graph. Make sure you

only use data for which the error bars are not too large in your least squares

calculation. Use these values to determine the current sensitivity k and the value of G.

What are the uncertainties in these measurements?

[2 Marks]

Carefully look at the back of the galvanometer, and you will see a

summary of its properties when it was tested some years ago. Do your

values for the resistance and current sensitivity agree, within error, with

the quoted values?

YOU SHOULD HAVE REACHED THIS STAGE WITHIN 1 HOURS

The Torsion Pendulum and the Ballistic Galvanometer

Consider a disk suspended from a torsion wire attached to

its centre. This setup is known as a torsion pendulum. A

torsion wire is essentially inextensible, but is free to twist

about its axis. Of course, as the wire twists it also causes

the disk attached to it to rotate in the horizontal plane. Any

twisting of the wire is inevitably associated with

mechanical deformation of the wire which is resisted by

developing a restoring torque which acts to restore the

wire to its untwisted state. For small angles of twist, the

magnitude of this torque is directly proportional to the

twist angle hence we have simple harmonic motion.

The ballistic galvanometer is a galvanometer adapted to measure charge as opposed

to current. It measures the charge flowing through the system during the passage of a

transient current and is based on the ideas behind the torsion pendulum.

If the period of oscillation is long in comparison with the transient current; the

electromagnetic pulse created in the coil acts as the impulse to start the coil

oscillating. The angular displacement, is directly related to the charge, Q. The

galvanometer you are using has been selected because the coil has a high moment of

inertia which results in a long oscillation period.

However, because of effects of air-resistance and other resistive effects within the

coil, these oscillations will be damped, and the coil will eventually come to rest at the

equilibrium point.

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 6

Measuring the Period of Oscillations

Rebuild your circuit so that the following is realised:

This time the potential divider P and S provides a voltage to charge a standard

capacitor, C. This capacitor can be discharged into the galvanometer using the Morse

key.

The amount of charge, Q, discharged is simply given by Q VC with the voltage

dropped across the capacitor, V, given by the potential divider P and S. Thus we have

that the charge is given by:

( )

P

Q EC

P S

+

(5)

This instantaneous current (charge pulse) provides the impulse to set the

galvanometer into oscillations. The coil begins to swing, but because of damping it

will not reach its maximum deflection a

0

. Instead it is deflected to a

1

on the first

swing, a

2

on the second and so on at the following times:

1 2 3

3 5

4 4 4

T T T

t

d a a a

(6)

The amplitude of the swings is being damped by an exponential which, as a function

of time, t, has the following form:

( ) exp A t (7)

with the damping term. It follows then that the ratio of successive amplitudes is

related to the period of oscillation, T, and is given by:

( )

3 1 2

2 3 4

exp

2

a a a

T

a a a

(8)

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 7

where

( )

2

2

BAn

IX

. B is the flux density of the magnetic field in which the coil

sits, A is the area of the coil and n is the number of turns of wire in the coil. T is the

period of the oscillations and X the total resistance of the galvanometer circuit.

The maximum deflection, which would be achieved in the absence of any damping, is

given by a

0

. It is found as follows (using equation (8)):

( ) ( )

1

2

0 1

1 2

exp exp

4 2

a a

T T

a a

1

1

]

1

0 1

2

a

a a

a

(9)

The Charge sensitivity can be defined as the maximum amplitude divided by the

charge. Therefore from equation (5) we can write:

( )

0

0

P S

a

K a

Q ECP

+

OR

( )

0

ECP

a K

P S

+

(10)

Task 5:

Make ( ) P S + a simple multiple of E (say 1000 E ) and keep it constant. Set the

capacitor to 0.5F. For a range of values of P (keeping P+S fixed) measure the

deflections a

1

and a

2

. Use an excel spreadsheet to calculate a

0

and its error for each

value of P. From the graph of a

0

against P find the slope and its error and hence

obtain a value for K and its error. Compare your answer with the calibrated value on

the back of the galvanometer.

[Hint: The expression to calculate a

0

can be re-written as

3

2

1

2

1

0

2

a

a

a

. The error on a

0

can therefore be expressed as:

0 1 2

2 2 2

0 1 2

9 1

4 4

a a a

a a a

_ _ _

+

, , ,

. The oscillations can be

stopped by shorting the galvanometer by pressing the switch when the oscillation pass

the equilibrium point] [2 Marks]

What limits your precision K? Can you think of ways of

improving your experiment?

YOU SHOULD HAVE REACHED THIS STAGE WITHIN 2 HOURS

Full Experiment The Galvanometer Page 8

5. Exploration: Measuring the Period and relating k and K

It can be shown that the charge and current sensitivities are related through the period

of the galvanometer:

2

k

K

T

(11)

Use a stop-watch and measure the period of the galvanometer, and from it the ratio

2

T

K

k

.

If you have time:

In task 5 you found the charge sensitivity by varying P and measuring the deflection

of the galvanometer beam,

( )

0

ECP

a K

P S

+

. As an alternative, measure the charge

sensitivity by keeping P, S and E fixed and measuring a

0

as a function of capacitance,

C. Use the variable capacitor and investigate the deflection of the beam as C is varied

from 0.1 to 1F. Do your two values of K agree?

6. To conclude

You will find information on galvanometers in Tipler, and most undergraduate text

books. Damped oscillations appeared as part of the Wave Phenomena course.

For your extended report You should give a full account of the phenomena

described in this experiment. You should concentrate on providing more background

information about galvanometers. Make sure that your graphs are presented clearly,

and that all error propagations are carefully explained. Compare your experimentally

determined values with those on the back of the galvanometer. Discuss any systematic

errors and describe any possible sources of error in your experiment and how you

could improve the precision of your measurements.

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