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Unit 2

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Syllabus Topic Pages

28 - 35 Mechanical & Electromagnetic Waves 3 - 21

36 - 38 Refraction 22 - 26
39 - 40 Polarisation 27 - 29
41 Diffraction 30 - 32
42 - 43 Wave Nature of Electrons 33 - 34
44 – 49 Pulse Echo Techniques 35 - 40
50 Charge and Current 41 – 44
51- 56 Voltage, Current, Resistance & Power 45 – 58
57 Resistivity 59 – 61
59 EMF & Internal Resistance 62 - 65
58, 60 - 62 Potential Divider 66 – 72
63 -67 Wave/Particle nature of light 73 – 81
68 Spectra & Energy Levels 82 – 88
69 – 70 Radiation Flux 89 - 92

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Mechanical waves
These would be set up within a solid, a liquid or a gas due to the vibration of the
molecules there. They are transmitted by both intermolecular forces and by collisions
between the molecules. In solids they could be either longitudinal or transverse
vibrations while in a liquid or a gas only longitudinal vibrations are really possible.
Examples of these waves would be the P and S waves in the Earth's crust due to an
earthquake and sound waves in air.

Earthquake waves.SWF

Electromagnetic waves
 They all travel at the same speed 3.00 x 10 8 m s-1 .
 They do not require a medium through which to pass.
 They are generated by accelerating charged particles.

Electromagnetic waves.SWF

Gamma X-rays U-V Visible I-R Microwaves Radio waves

10-15 10-9  4x10-7 4x10-7 - 7x10-7 10-6  10-4 - 10-1 0.1 – 103 m

Electromagnetic waves share many of the general wave properties of mechanical

they transfer energy from place to place
can be reflected
can be refracted
can be superposed
can be diffracted



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Wave motion
A wave motion is the transmission of energy from one place to another through a
material or a vacuum. Wave motion may occur in many forms such as water waves,
sound waves, radio waves and light waves, but the waves are basically of only two

Sound in Helium.avi

(a) transverse waves - the oscillation is at right angles to the direction of

propagation of the wave (Figure 1(a)). Examples of this type are water waves and
most electromagnetic waves.

Wavelength ()


Figure 1(a) Wavelength ()

Transverse wave generation.SWF Waves, peaks & troughs.SWF

(b) longitudinal waves - the oscillation is along the direction of propagation of the
wave (Figure 1(b)). An example of this type is sound waves in air.



Figure 1(b)

Longitudinal wave creation.SWF

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Basic definitions:
Wavelength: the distance between any two successive corresponding points that are
vibrating in phase
Displacement: the distance from the mean, central, undisturbed position at any point
on the wave (y)
Amplitude: the maximum displacement (y0 )
Frequency: the number of vibrations per second made by each particle/wave
Period: the time taken for one complete oscillation (T= 1/f)
Phase: the „delay‟ between the oscillations of neighbours

Wave terms.SWF Amplide, wavelength & phase.SWF

Wave Speed
The number of oscillations per second of each part of the medium is the
FREQUENCY f. It also equals the number of complete waves passing any place in
one second.
If f waves per second go past a place, and the wavelength is  , then the distance
travelled by the waves per second (i.e. the WAVE SPEED, c) is given by the
c f 

Sound in Helium.avi

Graphical representation of longitudinal waves

Longitudinal wave particle vibrations.GIF Longitudinal waves.GIF

Longitudinal wave pause.SWF Longitudinal wave.SWF

1 At large sports meetings the crowds sometimes produce a „Mexican wave‟.

(a) What would be a better name for this manoeuvre?
(b) Describe what the crowd would need to do to produce such a wave and
suggest values for its frequency and amplitude.

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2 The diagram shows a transverse wave on a rope. It is moving to the right.
Several particles on the rope have been labelled.

(a) On the diagram draw arrows to show the direction in which particles P,
R and T are moving.
(b) What can you say about the motion of Q and S?
(c) Mark on your diagram two particles that are
(i) in phase, i.e. moving together - call them P and P‟
(ii) in antiphase, i.e. moving oppositely- call them A and A '.

3 Describe, with the aid of a sketch, an electromagnetic wave.

4 Who will hear the singer first - a person who is 45 m from the stage, or a
person watching the concert on TV at home 2400 km away?
Assume that the microphone is very close to the singer and that the viewer is
sitting close to the TV.
Speed of electromagnetic waves = 3.00 x 108 m s-1
Speed of sound in air = 340 m s-1

5 Diagram (i) represents part of a stretched spring. Diagram (ii) represents the
same section of the spring at one instant of time when a sinusoidal longitudinal
wave is travelling along it.

(a) Use the diagram (ii) to determine the wavelength of the longitudinal wave.
(b) The wave speed is 2.00 m s-1 . Calculate the frequency of this wave.
(c) Describe qualitatively the motion of an individual coil of this spring as the
longitudinal wave travels along the spring.

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6 The diagram shows the shape of a wave on a stretched rope at one instant of
time. The wave is travelling to the right.

(a) Determine the wavelength of the wave.

(b) Mark on the diagram a point on the rope whose motion is exactly out of
phase with the motion at point A. Label this point X.
(c) Mark on the diagram a point on the rope which is at rest at the instant
shown. Label this point Y.
(d) Draw an arrow on the diagram at point C to show the direction in which
the rope at C is moving at the instant shown.
(e) The wave speed is 3.2 m s-1 . After how long will the rope next appear
exactly the same as in the diagram above?

7 A microwave generator produces plane polarised electromagnetic waves of

wavelength 29 mm.
(a) (i) Calculate the frequency of this radiation.
(ii) Complete the diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum below
by adding the names of the parts of the electromagnetic

(iii) State a typical value for the wavelength of radiation at

boundary X.

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8 The table below summarises some features of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Complete the table by filling in the missing types of radiation, wavelengths

and sources.

Radiation Source

Visible light Very hot objects


High frequency
100 m

10-6 m

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Standing waves
A stationary or standing wave is one in which the amplitude varies from place to
place along the wave. Figure 1 is a diagram o f a stationary wave. There are places
where the amplitude is zero and, halfway between, places where the amplitude is a
maximum; these are known as nodes and antinodes respectively.


X a1 a2 a3 Y


Fig 1

A node is a place of zero amplitude

An antinode is a place of maximum amplitude

Any stationary wave can be formed by the addition of two travelling waves moving in
opposite directions.
(Transverse Standing wave)

string1.swf string2.swf Standing waves 1.SWF

string3.swf string4.swf string5.swf string6.swf string7.swf

Stationary waves 2.SWF string8.swf string9.swf Tacoma Narrows.SWF
(Tacoma Narrows Bridge)

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9 The diagram shows a wire with a mass of 1.30 kg at one end and a vibrator at
the other end.
0.90 m

Vibrator 1.30 kg

(a) How many wavelengths does the diagram show?

(b) Use your answer to calculate the wavelength  of the stationary wave.
(c) The frequency of the vibrator is 250 Hz. Calculate the speed of the
(d) Point N in the diagram is a node. On the diagram, mark with an A an
(e) State one difference between a node and an antinode.
(f) Explain how a node is formed from two progressive waves.
(g) In energy terms, what is the difference between a standing wave and a
progressive wave?

10 (a)

Sketch three stationary patterns that could be formed on the cord in the
diagram. Mark the nodes and antinodes in each sketch.

(b) If in one of your sketches the distance between nodes is 0.55 m when
the signal generator frequency is 40 Hz, what is the speed of the waves
on the string?

11 The natural frequencies f of vibration of the string in Q2 can be found by

putting n = 1,2,3, etc. in the formula
n T
f 
2 
where  is the length of the string, T the tension in the string and  its mass per
unit length.
(a) Show that the units of the right hand side of the formula are s -1 or Hz.

(b) Using the arrangement in the diagram explain how you would show
experimentally that f was inversely proportional to  for a fixed value
of n, e.g. n = 2.

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12 (a) State two differences between a stationary wave and a progressive
Difference 1
Difference 2
(b) Spiders are almost completely dependent on vibrations transmitted
through their webs for receiving information about the location of their
prey. The threads of the web are under tension. When the threads are
disturbed by trapped prey, progressive transverse waves are transmitted
along the sections of thread and stationary waves are formed.
Early in the morning droplets of moisture are seen evenly spaced along
the thread when prey has been trapped.

(i) Explain why droplets form only at these points.

(ii) The speed of a progressive transverse wave sent by trapped
prey along a thread is 9.8 cm s-1 . Use the diagram to help you
determine the frequency of the stationary wave.

13 A stationary wave is produced on a stretched string by a vibration generator

attached to one end. The graph shows part of the wave. The two full lines
represent the extreme positions of the string.

(a) State the wavelength of this wave

(b) Mark a letter A on the graph to label an antinode.
(c) The stationary wave is formed by the superposition of two waves
travelling along the string in opposite directions. The frequency of the
vibrator is 36.0 Hz. Calculate the speed of the travelling waves.
(d) State the phase relationship between the two travelling waves at an
(e) Determine the amplitude of each of the travelling waves.

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14 (a) Describe, with the aid of a diagram, an experiment to demonstrate
stationary waves using microwaves.
(b) Using the idea of wave superposition, explain what is observed in your
(c) Describe how you could use the experiment to measure the wave length
of microwaves.

15 A piece of string is connected to a variable frequency vibration generator. The

fundamental frequency of this system is 60 Hz.

(a) Complete the table to show what would be observed as the frequency is
gradually increased from 40 Hz to 180 Hz.

16 The cello is a stringed musical instrument that may be played either by

stroking the strings with a bow or by plucking the strings with the fingers.

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(a) One of the attached strings on the cello has a vibrating length of
0.80 m. The string is made to oscillate as a stationary wave by means
of a bow and the following pattern of oscillations is seen. The position
of the string at two different times is shown.

(i) Explain how the movement of the bow causes this wave
(ii) Using the diagram calculate the wavelength of the wave.
(iii) State two differences between the wave on the string and the
sound wave it produces.

(b) The cello string is then plucked and the waveform of the resulting
sound is analysed by an oscilloscope. It is found to consist of two
frequencies of different amplitudes.

The frequency spectrum is shown below,

The waveform of the 200 Hz wave has been drawn on the axes below. On the
same axes sketch the waveform of the 1000Hz wave.

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When two groups of waves (called wave trains) meet and overlap they „interfere‟ with
each other. The resulting amplitude will depend on the amplitudes of both the waves
at that point.

If the crest of one wave meets the crest of the other the waves are said to be in phase
and the resulting intensity will be large. This is known as constructive interference.
If the crest of one wave meets the trough of the other they are said to be out of phase
by 12  then the resulting intensity will be less/zero (if the waves have equal
amplitudes). This is known as destructive interference.
(Superposition Principle)

Superposition principle.GIF

This phase difference may be produced by allowing the two sets of waves to travel
different distances - this difference in distance of travel is called the path difference
between the two waves.

The diagrams in Figure 1 below show two waves of equal amplitudes with different
phase and path differences between them. The first pair has a phase difference of 12 
or 180o and a path difference of an odd number of half-wavelengths. The second pair
have a phase difference of zero and a path difference of a whole number of
wavelengths, including zero.

+ =
+ =

destructive interference constructiv e interf erence

Figure 1

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To obtain a static interference pattern at a point (that is, one that is constant with time)
we must have
 two sources of the same wavelength, and
 two sources which have a constant phase difference between them.
Sources with synchronised phase changes between are called coherent sources and
those with random phase changes are called incoherent sources.
This condition is met by two speakers connected to a signal generator because the
sound waves that they emit are continuous – there are no breaks in the waves.

However two separate light sources cannot be used as sources for a static interference
pattern because although they may be monochromatic the light from them is emitted
in a random series of pulses of around 10 -8 s duration. The phase difference that may
exist between one pair of pulses emitted from the source may well be quite different
from that between the next pair of pulses (Figure 2).

Pulses from source A

Pulses from source B

Figure 2

Therefore although an interference pattern still occurs, it changes so rapidly that you
get the impression of uniform illumination. Another problem is that the atoms
emitting the light may collide with each other so producing phase changes within one
individual photon. We must therefore use one light source and split the waves from it
into two.
Minimum – crest meets trough

Diagrams in Figure 3-7 show

Maximum – crest meets crest two sources S1 and S2
emitting waves - they could
be light, sound or
Minimum – crest meets trough
Maximum – crest meets crest The plan view of the waves
S2 in Figure 3 shows waves
Minimum – crest meets trough coming from two slits and
„interfering‟ with each other.
The lines along which the
Maximum – crest meets crest
path differences will give
maxima or minima.
Figure 3 Minimum – crest meets trough

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This type of arrangement is like that produced in a ripple tank or in the double slits
experiment with light (see later).

Figure 4(a) shows light

Figure 4 (a) interfering as it passes through
two slits. In Figure 4(a) the
appearance of the interference
pattern on a screen placed in the
path of the beam is shown.

You can see the maxima and

minima and the way in which
the intensity changes from one
to the other.

Changing the wavelength of the

light (its wavelength), the
separation of the slits or the
distance of the slits from the
screen will all give changes in
the separation of the maxima in
the interference pattern.

Two dippers Ripple tank.GIF

Two source Max & Min.SWF

Young's slits Max & Min.SWF

Figure 4 (b)

Figure 5 shows the interference

minimum effects of two speakers. The sound
maximum waves spread out all round the
speakers and a static interference
pattern is formed. (Not all the
maxima and minima are labelled).
You can hear this by setting up two
speakers in the lab connected to one
signal generator and then simply
walking round the room. You will
Figure 5 hear the sound go from loud to soft
as you pass from maximum to
minimum minimum.

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In Figures 6 and 7 you can see that at the different points on the screen the waves
from S1 have travelled a different distance from those from S 2 . In Figure 6 the path
difference is zero, in Figure 7 it is half a wavelength

Path differenc e = /2

Path difference = 0

Figure 6 Figure 7


The effect of amplitude

If two sources have very different amplitudes, then you will not be able to observe
superposition patterns.
The wave with the larger amplitude will dominate, because it makes little difference
to the total whether the wave with the smaller amplitude is in phase or out of phase
with it.

All points on a wavefront vibrate in phase. If you dip

your finger in the water of a ripple tank you will notice
that circular ripples spread out.

This is because waves travel at the same speed in all


If we tilt the tank so that the depth of the

water now varies:

The wavefront has an oval shape because

waves travel faster in deep water than in
shallow water. shallow deep

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Phase Differences


Places marked  and  oscillate with a phase difference    2

Phase difference.SWF

speed of light as = 3.00 x 108 ms-1

speed of sound in air = 330 ms-1 .

17 (a) What is meant by the principle of superposition of waves?

(b) Are there any types of wave which do not obey the principle or any
circumstances in which it does not apply?

18 The diagram shows an experimental arrangement for investigating the

superposition of sound waves from two sources S1 and S2 . The sources are in
phase and produce sound of wavelength 80 mm.
(a) When S1 M is 800 mm the trace on the
oscilloscope is a maximum.
Suggest three possible values for S2 M.

Without moving any of the apparatus the leads to o ne of the speakers are
reversed, i.e. the sources are now in antiphase.
(b) Explain the meanings of in phase and in antiphase and describe how the
trace on the oscilloscope changes when the leads are reversed.

19 Why can‟t you get a static interference pattern with two light bulbs while it is
possible with two loudspeakers.

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20 A motorist drives along a motorway at a steady speed of 30 ms -1 . There are
radio transmitters at each end of the motorway. She is listening to the car
radio and as she travels along she notices that the radio signal varies in
strength, 5s elapsing between successive maxima. Explain this effect and
calculate the wavelength of the radio signal that she is tuned to.

21 The diagram shows an arrangement with sound waves.

A loudspeaker connected to a signal generator is mounted, pointing

downwards, above a horizontal bench. The sound is detected by a
microphone connected to an oscilloscope. The height of the trace on the
oscilloscope is proportional to the amplitude of the sound waves at the
When the vertical distance x between the microphone and the bench is varied,
the amplitude of the sound waves is found to vary as shown on the graph.,

(a) Explain why the amplitude of the sound has a number of maxima and

(b) The frequency of the sound waves is 3.20 kHz. Use this, together with
information from the graph, to determine a value for the speed of sound in

(c) The contrast between the maxima and minima becomes less pronounced
as the microphone is raised further from the surface of the bench. Suggest
an explanation for this.

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22 The diagram is a plan view of an experiment to measure the wavelength of
microwaves. The diagram is to scale but one third of full size.

(a) As a microwave detector is moved around the arc from A to B, alternate

maxima and minima of intensity are observed. Explain why.

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(b) A maximum is observed at point 0, and the next maximum at point X. By
means of suitable measurements on the diagram, determine the wavelength of
the microwaves.

(c) A teacher demonstrating this experiment finds that, even at the maxima, the
wave intensity is small. A student suggests making the slits wider to let more
energy through. Explain why this might not be a good idea.

(c) For an interference pattern to be observed between waves from two sources,
the sources must be coherent. Explain what is meant by coherent, and what
makes the two sources in this experiment coherent.

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Change of Speed
For all refracted waves the path is deviated away from the normal when the speed
increases and towards the normal when the wave is slowe d down.

Medium 2

2 Speed c2



Speed c1
Medium 1

Light moves slower in medium 1 than in medium 2.

sin 1 c1
2  
sin  2 c 2

Since the path of the light is reversible

sin  2 c2
2 1  
sin 1 c1

Refraction occurs for all waves. Sound can be deviated as it passes from warm air to
cooler air and microwaves can be refracted by wax.

Page 22 of 92
Refraction – wave fronts


Wavefronts animation

The following diagram shows the refraction of a plane wave at a plane interface. The
position of the refracted wave is formed using the idea of secondary wavelets

A a air
g D
vgt glass

One side of the wave moves from A to C (a distance vgt) in glass in the same time that
the other side of the wave front moves the form B to D (a distance vat) in the same
time in air. The wave front recombines at CD.

va t
sin  a AD  v a
a g  
sin  g v g t vg

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Total internal reflection and critical angle

medium one

medium tw o

Total internal ref lection

Figure 1

When light passes from a material such as water into one of lower refractive index
such as air it is found that there is a maximum angle of incidence in the water that will
give a refracted beam in the air, that is, the angle of refraction is 90 o . The angle of
incidence in the denser medium corresponding to an angle of refraction of 90 o in the
less dense medium is known as the critical angle (c) (Figure 1). The reason for this is
clear if we consider the formulae. For an angle of refraction of 90 o we have:
sin  2 sin c 1
2 1    sin c 
sin 1 sin 90 1 2
Example problem
The refractive indices from air to glass and from air to water are 1.50 and 1.33
Calculate the critical angle for a water- glass surface.
a Air

g g Glass

w w Water

a Air

sin  a sin  a
g  , a w 
sin  g sin  w

sin  g sin  g sin  a 1 1

w   .  g a . a w  .a  w   1.13
sin  w sin  a sin  w a g

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Therefore the critical angle for light passing from glass to water is
sin c 1.13
 g w 
sin 90 1.50
c  62.5
For an air-glass boundary
1 1
sin c  
a g 1.50
c  42
And for an air-water boundary
1 1
sin c  
a w 1.13
c  48.5

For angles of incidence greater than the critical angle all the light is reflected back
into the optically more dense material, that is, the one with the greater refrac tive
index. This is known as total internal reflection and the normal laws of reflection are

Total internal reflection explains the shiny appear-

ance of the water surface of a swimming pool when glass
viewed at an angle from below. The phenomenon is
used in prismatic binoculars
(Mirages are caused by continuous internal

Figure 2

1 Blue light is deviated more than red light when it enters a glass block because:
A it has a longer wavelength
B it has a lower frequency
C it travels at a greater speed in glass than red light
D it travels at a lower speed in glass than red light

2 The diagram shows how a narrow beam of light strikes a layer of oil on the
surface of a tank of water at an angle of 58.0 .
Refractive index of oil = 1.28
Refractive index of water = 1.34

(a) The angle of refraction in the oil
(b) The angle of refraction in the water
(c) The angle of refraction in the water if the layer of oil was removed.

Page 25 of 92
3 Draw a diagram showing wavefronts when light passes from air into glass.
 a  g  1.50 at incident angle of 45.
4 (a) A ray of light enters one side of a rectangular glass block at incident
angle of 40. Calculate the angle of refraction  a  g  1.55.
(b) The opposite side of the block is immersed in a clear liquid. The angle
of refraction is 28 when the ray passes into the liquid. Calculate the
refractive index of the liquid a   .

5 Calculate the critical angle for the interface between the core of an optical
fibre with refractive index 1.60 and the cladding with refractive index 1.52.

6 Rainbows are caused when sunlight is dispersed by raindrops. The

different colours follow separate paths.

The diagram shows some of the rays of light passing through a raindrop.



(a) Name the process which occurs at A.

(b) The ray at B is actually only partially reflected at the surface of the
water. Continue the ray to show the path of the red light which is not

(c) Explain the condition that would be required to prevent the red light
from emerging at B.

Light changes its direction at A because of a change of speed on entering

the water.

(d) Red light has a frequency of 4.2 × 1014 Hz. Calculate its wavelength
in a raindrop.

Speed of red light in water = 2.2 × 108 m s–1.

Page 26 of 92
If you get hold of one end of a rubber rope, tie the o ther end to a post, stretch it and
then send a series of pulses down the rope the vibration travels down the rope.
Although each successive pulse may be sent in a different plane each pulse only
vibrates in one direction.

A wave in which the plane of vibration is constantly changing is called an unpolarised


Magnetic field (B) Figure 1

Electric field (E)

Unpolarised radiation Plane polarised radiation

However if the vibrations of a transverse wave are in one plane only then the wave is
said to be plane polarised.

Electric field

Magnetic field
e.m. radiation

Figure 2

Light is plane-polarised when the vibrations are made to occur in one plane only.
Light is a transverse electromagnetic wave with the vibrations of an electric and a
magnetic field occurring at right angles to each other and in any plane at right angles
to the direction of travel of the light.

Polarisation is easily observed with the rubber rope experiment described above but it
can also be shown with electromagnetic waves such as microwaves, TV, radio and

It is important to realise that transverse waves can be polarised

while longitudinal waves cannot.

Page 27 of 92
Effects of polarisation with light.
Sunglasses Car windscreens
Polarisation by reflection - glare/shine off roads Optical activity
Polarisation of scattered sunlight Stresses in materials
The effect of a polariser and an analyser is shown in the following diagrams.

Polarisation of transverse waves.SWF Polarisation of microwaves.SWF

Sensation of light polarization

Our own eyes are poor at sensing light polarization but very good at sensing its colour
and brightness; however, sensation of light polarization is not at all unusual in the
animal kingdom.
It is found in some insects, crustaceans, fish, birds, and particularly in cephalopods, a
class of molluscs that includes squids, octopuses and cuttlefish.
A key requirement for polarization sensitivity is the excitation of two or more classes
of visual pigments that have different alignments in the eye (technically, different
axes of maximal excitation). Comparison of the neural inputs from these two rows
allows the animal to sense polarized light.

Stomatopod1.JPG Stomatopod2.GIF

The images in the animation were taken using a polarizing filter - we wouldn‟t see the
flashing red and white signals with only the naked eye.

Light reflected off shiny s urfaces may be polarised.

Photoelastic stress analysis

When polarised light passes through some transparent materials,
the plane of polarisation is rotated.
If the material is put under stress, the amount of stress affects the
degree of polarisation.
If the incident polarised light is white, each of its component
colours is rotated by a different amount, creating a pattern of
coloured fringes when viewed through the analyser polaroid.
Engineers make models of structural components out of materials such as Perspex.
The model is then stressed, and the pattern of coloured fringes is examined in order to
identify regions of high stress.

Page 28 of 92
1 What is meant by plane polarized light?

2 Explain whether the human eye can distinguish polarized light from
unpolarised light.

3 How could you tell if a television signal was plane polarized and also find out
the direction of polarization?

4 Why do yachtsmen wear Polaroid sunglasses?

5 (a) Explain with the aid of a diagram why transverse waves can be plane
polarised but longitudinal waves cannot be plane polarised.

(b) (i) A filament lamp is observed directly and then through a sheet
of Polaroid. Describe and explain the effect of the sheet of
Polaroid on the intensity of the light seen.

(ii) The sheet of Polaroid is now rotated in a plane perpendicular to

the direction of travel of the light. What effect, if any, will this
have on the intensity of the light seen?

6 Describe, with the aid of a diagram, how you would demonstrate that these
microwaves were plane polarised.

7 (a) Describe how you would demonstrate experimentally that light waves
can be polarised, using either light or microwaves. Include a diagram
of the apparatus you would use.
(b) What does the experiment tell you about the nature of electromagnetic

Page 29 of 92
When a wave hits an obstacle it does not simply go
straight past, it bends round the obstacle. The same type
of effect occurs at a hole - the waves spread out the other
side of the hole. This phenomenon is known as
diffraction and examples of the diffraction of plane
waves are shown in the diagram.
small gap
The effects of diffraction are much more noticeable if the
size of the obstacle is small (a few wavelengths across),
while a given size of obstacle will diffract a wave of long
wavelength more than a shorter one.

Diffraction can be easily demonstrated with sound waves

or microwaves. It is quite easy to hear a sound even if
there is an obstacle in the direct line between the source
and your ears. By using the 2.8 cm microwave apparatus large gap
very good diffraction effects may be observed with
obstacles a few centimetres across.

One of the most powerful pieces of evidence for light

being some form of wave motion is that it also shows
diffraction. The problem with light and that which led
Newton to reject the wave theory is that the wavelength
is very small and therefore diffraction effects are hard to
observe. You can observe the diffraction of light, small wavelength
however, if you know just where to look.

The coloured rings round a street light in frosty weather,

the coloured bands viewed by reflection from a record
and the spreading of light round your eyelashes are all
diffraction effects. Looking through the material of a
stretched pair of tights at a small torch bulb will also
show very good diffraction. A laser will also show good
diffraction effects over large distances because of the diffraction at an edge
coherence of laser light.

Diffraction is essentially the effect of removing some of

the information from a wave front; the new wave front
will be altered by the obstacle or aperture. Huygens'
theory explained this satisfactorily.

diffraction round an obstacle

Page 30 of 92 ml m/englishhtm/ m 27/ Gary-Diffraction/app.htm

Huygens' principle1.SWF Diffraction Intro.SWF Diffraction&Huygens.SWF

Diffraction through a slit.SWF Diffraction variable slit.SWF

Diffraction around an object.SWF Diffraction of radio waves.SWF

Diffraction & resolving power.SWF

Page 31 of 92
1 Red monochromatic light falls on a narrow slit. Describe what happens to the
diffraction pattern as the slit is slowly opened.

2 How would the diffraction pattern in Q1 be affected if blue light were used
instead of red?

3 Which would be easier to receive in hilly areas and why, television or radio?

4 Why is the diffraction of light much more difficult to observe than the
diffraction of microwaves?

5 Each of the diagrams below shows a series of wavefronts, one wavelength

apart, approaching a gap between two barriers in a ripple tank.

(a) What is a wavefront?

(b) Add further wavefronts to each diagram to show what happens as the
waves pass through each gap.

(c) The station BBC Radio 4 broadcasts both on the Long Wave band at
198 kHz and on VHF at approximately 94 MHz. In mountainous parts
of the country, reception is better on Long Wave than on VHF.
Suggest why.

Page 32 of 92
Wave Particle Duality for Electrons

Electrons scattered by a particle.SWF

electron gun
graphi te


The electron beam is accelerated through a p.d. of a few kV and it hits a thin film of
graphite in an evacuated tube.

Electrons scattered by a crystal.SWF

Many of the electrons arrive near the centre of the screen but others arrive at other
distances from the centre of the screen. So in addition to a bright spot in the centre,
two bright concentric rings are formed as well as other faint rings. l/a9.html

The electrons appear to be behaving like waves (diffracting)

If the accelerating voltage of the gun is increased the rings become smaller.
Fast moving electrons (when regarded as particles) appear to have a short wavelength
(when regarded as waves).
After the discovery of the photoelectric effect it was realised that waves can possess
particle- like properties, and a search was made to see if the reverse was true, could
particles behave like waves.
(But don‟t bother about the formulae!)
What are electrons?
 When we are dealing with the forces on particles like electrons, and their
energy changes, we can treat them as particles.
 When we want to know where they are, we have to use wave ideas.
The phrase wave-particle duality is used to describe the two-sided nature of
electromagnetic radiation, and the two-sided nature of particles.

Page 33 of 92

Two slit interference electrons & light.SWF

..\..\..\Mult imedia\Movies\Electron

The location of an electron inside an atom may be described in terms of a wave whose
amplitude at any place determines the probability of finding the electron at that

Particle or wave.SWF

Electrons in atoms
The amplitude of the „electron wave‟ at a place determines the probability of finding
the electron at that place.
Only particular standing waves are possible and these depend on the energy state of
the electron.


Quantised orbits
The simple Rutherford model of the atom had one serious disadvantage concerning
the stability of the orbits. Bohr showed that in such a model the electrons would
spiral into the nucleus in about 10-10 s, due to electrostatic attraction. He therefore
proposed that the angular momentum of the electron should be quantised, in line with
Planck's quantum theory of radiation.

1 Which experiment shows particles behaving like waves?

2 Write down one device that uses the idea that particles have wave properties.

Scanning tunneling electron microscope image of graphite.GIF

Page 34 of 92
Pulse-echo techniques
One method of finding the speed of sound, v, in air is to bang a drum while standing a
measured distance, d, (at least 100 m) from the wall of a large building and measuring
the time, t, between striking the drum and hearing the echo.


Sonar and radar are methods during the Second World War that are still widely used
to gauge the position of ships and aircraft. They achieve this by sending out pulses of
sound and radio waves and noting the time and direction of the reflected pulses. Bats
and dolphins are examples of animals that emit and receive high- frequency sounds.

What is Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is the name given to high frequency sound - defined as sound with a
frequency over 20 000Hz. Sounds with this frequency are too high in pitch to be
heard by the human ear. These waves can be transmitted in beams (like light) and are
used to produce live 2-D images of the internal organs. Recently it has become
possible to generate 3-D images by means of ultrasound. The ultrasound pulse travels
through the body and echoes off the internal organs. These ultrasound echoes are then
recorded and displayed as a live image. It is used across a wide range of medical
specialties including obstetrics, gynaecology, cardiology, surgery, and
gastroenterology. Ultrasound is favoured in these areas as it is a safe and relatively
inexpensive imaging method.

For medical diagnostic purposes, frequencies used in Ultrasound scanning are in the
range of 2.5-10MHz (2.5 to 10 million Hz). Very short bursts of sound lasting around
one millionth of a second are transmitted into the patient approximately 500 - 1000
times a second. As the sound travels in the body, it is reflected at the junction of
different the tissues, to produce echoes which are
picked up by the transducer.

The sound is reflected because different tissues carry

sound at different rates. The fraction of sound that is
reflected depends on the difference in a property
known as the acoustic impedance of the tissue on
each side of the interface. The acoustic impedance
depends on the density of the medium so a much
bigger reflection occurs at a tissue-bone boundary
than a tissue- muscle interface.

These echoes need to be electronically amplified in the scanner. The echoes that
come from deep within the body are more attenuated (energy is absorbed or scattered

Page 35 of 92
within the body) than those from more superficial (or shallower) parts and therefore
require more amplification. When the echoes return to the transducer, it is possible to
reconstruct a 2-D map of all the tissues that have been exposed to the ultrasound
pulse. The information is stored in a computer and then displayed as an image on a
television monitor. Stronger echoes appear as brighter dots on the screen.

Ultrasound waves are produced by a piezoelectric transducer which is capable of

changing electrical signals into mechanical waves (ultrasound). The same transducer
can also receive the reflected ultrasound and change it back into electric signals. This
effect - known as the piezoelectric effect - is displayed by a number of naturally
occurring materials

Ultrasound is an extremely useful means of diagnostic imaging. It is widely used in

obstetrics, for foetal imaging and to guide diagnostic procedures, as well as
gynaecology. As fluid is a good conductor of sound, ultrasound is particularly good
for differentiating between cysts and solid structures and viewing fluid- filled
structures such as the bladder, or the foetus in the sac of amniotic fluid.

Doppler Ultrasound
When ultrasound is transmitted towards a stationary reflector, the reflected waves will
be of the same frequency as those originally transmitted. However, if the reflector is
moving towards the transmitter, the reflected frequency will be higher than the
transmitted frequency. On the other hand, if the reflector is moving away from the
transmitter, the reflected frequency will be lower than the transmitted frequency. This
phenomenon is called the Doppler Effect, after its discoverer, Christian Doppler.
The difference between the frequencies is called the Doppler shift. This may sound
very complicated, but it's a surprisingly everyday effect, most commonly illustrated
by a siren on an ambulance or police car. As the car approaches, the sound appears
higher and higher pitched - until the moment where it passes and the tone is heard to
drop sharply. In medical practice, this is used in particular to measure the flow of
blood through vessels and within the heart.

As ultrasound is non- invasive and involves no ionising radiation. It is an extremely

safe method of medical imaging. At the energies and doses currently used in
diagnostic ultrasound, no harmful effects on any tissues have ever been demonstrated,
over a very long period of use. This is another reason why it is ideal for foetal
imaging, and indeed, is usually considered the only scan safe for pregnant women.
Apart from its safety, ultrasound is also the method of choice for seeing many internal
organs. Ultrasound provides high quality images of internal organs that some other
scans such as MRI's cannot achieve. Finally, compared to many other techniques, it is
relatively inexpensive - meaning it is very widely available.

Microsoft Office
PowerPoint 97-2003 Presentation
The principles of medical Ultrasound

Page 36 of 92
Thickness measurement (includes a good animation)
The amount of detail in a scan is affected by diffraction effects.

Microsoft Office
Excel 97-2003 Worksheet
The smaller the wavelength of sound used in an ultrasound scan, the smaller the finest
detail that can be distinguished. However there is a contrary trend that the shorter the
wavelength the sooner a wave pulse will be absorbed. Medical ultrasound scans
generally compromise these competing factors using wavelengths in the range 0.075
mm to 1.5 mm. As a general guide the smallest detail that can be resolved will be
about the size of a wavelength. To make out a foetal thumb that is 0.5 mm wide
would require the use of ultrasound of wavelength
0.5 mm or less.

There is an additional constraint that the resolution will be half the length of a pulse.
A pulse may be a few wavelengths and its size may be calculated thus:

length  speed  time pulse is on

An ultrasound system for examining the eye sends out a pulse of ultrasound waves
with a frequency of 6 MHz. The pulse duration is 0.6 s. The speed of sound in the
eye averages 1510 m s-1 . What is the smallest detail that can distinguished?

v 1510 m s 1
1 Wavelength method   6 1
 2.51  10 4 m  0.251 mm
f 6  10 s

2 Pulse length method

 
pulse length  1510 m s 1  0.6  10 6 s  0.906  10 3 m
resolution  half pulse length  0.453 mm

The worse resolution is 0.453 mm and finer details than this could not be seen in the
image produced.

1 Ultrasound is preferred to X-rays for some diagnostic images because:

A it gives a more detailed image
B it is a longitudinal wave
C it is less harmful to the patient
D it penetrates the body more easily

2 A firework accelerates upwards and emits a constant high-pitched sound. An

observer will hear:
A a constant higher pitched sound
B a constant lower pitched sound
C a continually decreasing pitch
D a continually increasing pitch

Page 37 of 92
3 A recorder at the finish line of a 100 m race sees the flash of the starting pistol
and starts her stopwatch. A second recorder fails to see the flash and starts his
watch on hearing the bang. The winner‟s time differs by 0.3 s on the two
watches. Explain the likely reason for this and use the difference to estimate
the speed of sound in air.

4 A trawlerman uses sonar to detect shoals of fish. A strongly reflected pulse is

received 1.60 s after it was transmitted. If the speed of sound in water is
1500 m s-1 , how far from the boat are the fish?

5 Give on advantage and on disadvantage for using high frequency ultrasound

for diagnostic images in medicine.

6 A space probe sends radio signals back to Earth. Why may the radio receiver
at ground control have to be retuned after the launch of the probe?

7 A radar measurement of the distance to the Moon gives a round-trip time of

2.57 s.
Calculate how far away the Moon is.

(Speed of radio waves = 3.00 x 108 m s-1 ).

Page 38 of 92
Doppler Effect

Waves bunched together –

wavelength shortened Waves spread out –
wavelength increased

Figure 1

The Doppler Effect is the apparent change of frequency and wavelength when a
source of waves and an observer move relative to each other. These effects were first
explained by Doppler in 1842 as a bunching up and a spreading out of waves.
Looking at a duck swimming in a pond would show you that the waves it generates in
the direction it is swimming are bunched while those behind it are spread out.
(Figure 1)
To demonstrate his theory he persuaded a group of trumpeters to stand and play in an
open railway carriage while the carriage travelled across the Dutch countryside.
Observers on the ground heard a change of pitch as the truck passed them.
One of the most important applications of the Doppler Effect is in the study of the
expansion of the Universe. Galaxies have their light shifted towards the red due to
their speed of recession and when we receive the light at the Earth we describe it as
Red Shifted.

Red shift.SWF
When a source of light is moving toward
someone, the light will appear „bluer‟.
If a source of light is moving away, the light
will appear „redder‟.
These two frequency shifts are called blue
shift and red shift.

Doppler effect.SWF
Blue shift and red shift are used to measure the velocity and rotation of stars and

Spiral Galaxy Red Blue Shift.MOV

Red shifts and blue shifts have been used to measure the orbital velocity of the Earth,
to detect stars and quasars, and to detect the rotation of other galaxies.
They have also been used to determine the speed of dust clouds in the Milky Way,
and have helped to prove that our galaxy is rotating.
Astronomers have discovered that all the distant galaxies are moving away from us,
and by measuring their red shifts their speeds may be estimated.

Page 39 of 92
The furthermost galaxies have been estimated to have speeds approaching the speed
of light.
Hubble photographed the spectra of galaxies and detected that certain characteristic
absorption lines were shifted towards the red end of the spectrum.
The effect can be also be observed in the following uses and applications of the
Doppler Effect

(a) Change in the pitch of a buzzer when it is whirled around your head
(b) Change in pitch of a train hooter or whistle as it passes through a station
(c) Shift of the frequency of the light from the two sides of the solar disc due to
the Sun's rotation
(d) Variation in the frequency of the light from spectroscopic binaries
(e) Police radar speed traps
(f) Doppler broadening of spectral lines in high temperature plasmas
(g) Measurement of the speed of the blood in a vein or artery

The Doppler Effect is commonly used in medicine. An ultrasound transducer coupled

to the body near an artery emits pulses that are reflected by moving blood cells within
the artery. A blockage due to a blood clot (thrombosis) or a constriction caused by a
thickening of the arterial wall is detected by a sudden change in the shift frequency.

8 What is meant by the Doppler Effect?

9 Write down four uses or effects of the Doppler Effect.

10 If the light from a star is observed to be blue shifted as seen from the Earth
what does this tell you about the motion of the star?

Page 40 of 92
Electron flow in a conductor
Electric current

Current & electron flow 1.SWF

When you turn on an electric light an electric current flows in the wire. Do not think
of it like water coming from a tap – the electricity current does not flow out from the
switch – electric charge is already in the wire – connecting the lamp to the power
supply via the switch simply gives the charged particles the energy to flow.

This energy can come from a variety of sources – kinetic as in a dynamo, a chemical
reaction in a cell, light falling on a photoelectric cell, heating the junction of two
metals in a thermocouple, sound in a microphone or mechanical stress in a piezo-
electric crystal.
When an electric current flows electrical energy is converted to other forms of energy
such as „heat‟, light, chemical, magnetic and so on.

Consider a piece of metal wire - a very much enlarged view of which is shown in
Figure 1 .



Figure 1

A piece of wire is made of a huge number of atoms and each one of these has its own
cloud of electrons. However in a metal there are a large number of electrons that are
not held around particular nuclei but are free to move at high speed and in a random
way through the metal. These are known are „free‟ electrons and in a metal there are
always large numbers of these. It is when these free electrons are all made to move in
a certain direction by the application of a voltage across the metal that we have an
electric current.
The difference between a metal (a large and co nstant number of free electrons), a
semiconductor (a few free electrons, the number of which varies with temperature)
and an insulator (no/very few free electrons) is shown in Figure 2.

semiconduct insulator conductor Figure 2


Each electron has a very small amount of electric charge, and it is more convenient to
use a larger unit when measuring charge. This unit is the coulomb.

Page 41 of 92
The charge on one electron is -1.6 x 10-19 C. This is usually written as e. You would
need about 6x1018 electrons to have a charge of one coulomb!

The electrical charge passing any one point in a circuit in one second is called the
electric current, and it is measured in Amperes (A).

The Amp can be defined in the following way:

A current of 1A flows in a wire if a charge of 1C passes any point

in the wire each second.

Current  Rate of flow of charge

Rate of flow of charge.SWF

Velocity of free electrons in a wire

The free electrons in a metal have three distinct velocities associated with them:
 a random velocity ( about 105 ms-1 )
 a velocity with which electrical energy is transferred along the wire
(about 108 ms-1 )
 a drift velocity of the electrons as a whole when a current flows through the
wire (this depends on the applied voltage but is usually a few mm s-1 for
currents of a few amps in normal connecting leads).

Electron drift velocity

Microsoft Office
PowerPoint 97-2003 Presentation I  nAQv

Current & electron flow 2.SWF

Page 42 of 92
The table below shows some free electron concentrations

Metal Free electron concentration (m-3 ) (at 300 K)

Lithium 4.7x1028
Sodium 2.7x1028
Silver 5.9x1028
Copper 8.5x1028

Distinction between metals, semiconductors and insulators.

Metals are good conductors because the charge is carried by free electrons.
For a good conductor like copper the number of free electrons per unit volume is
n  1029 m-3 .

n is VERY BIG.
Semi-conductors, like silicon, have fewer charge carriers per unit volume compared
with metals.
n is medium size.

Insulators contain hardly any charge carriers at all (n is very small)

1 What is meant by the free electron concentration in a metal?

2 Why might a good electrical conductor also be a good thermal conductor?

3 Calculate the current flowing in a copper wire of cross-sectional area 2x10-7 m2

if the drift velocity is 3.5x10-4 ms-1 .

4 Calculate the drift velocity in a silver wire of diameter 0.26 mm if a current of

20 mA flows through it.

5 A table tennis ball oscillates between two charged vertical metal plates. A
sensitive ammeter connected between the plates records a current of 3 A
when the period of oscillation of the ball is 2 s. Calculate:
(a) the charge carried between the plates by the ball in each oscillation
(b) the number of electrons carried between the plates by the ball in each

6 In a television tube 0.25 m long the electron velocity is 5x10 7 ms-1 . If the
current in the tube is 1.5 mA calculate:
(a) the number of electrons reaching the screen every second
(b) the number of electrons in 1 cm of the beam

Page 43 of 92
7 Diagram 2 shows the results of an experiment to find the velocity of charged
It shows their movement during 50 s. mm
(a) the ion drift velocity
filter paper

(b) the charge reaching the positive electrode crystal

per second if the current is 1.25 mA

(c) the number of ions reaching the positive

electrode per second if there are each
doubly charged microscope slide

Diagram 2 crocodile clip

Page 44 of 92
Potential and Potential Difference
As a charge moves round a circuit from the positive to the negative it loses energy.
There is a problem here. As you know an electric current is a flow of negatively
charged electrons and these flow away from the negative terminal of a supply, round
the circuit and back to the positive terminal. However the „traditional‟ view of current
flow is from positive to negative and we will take that view when looking at the
energy of electrical charge.

Figure 1 Electron flow direction Traditional current direction

- to + + to -

We define the amount of electrical potential energy that a unit charge has as:
The electrical potential energy of a unit charge at a point in a circuit is called
the potential at that point.

The next set of diagrams (Figure 2) show how the potential varies round some basic circuits.
To simplify the treatment we are going to assume that the energy lost in the connecting wires
is neglibgible and we are going to ignore it. This means that the energy of the charge at one
end of a connecting wire is the same as that at the other end. The bigger the energy change
the bigger the difference in potential. We call the difference in electrical potential between
two points in the circuit the potential difference between those two places.
The potential difference between two points is defined as:

Potential difference between two points in a circuit is the work done in moving unit
charge (i.e. one coulomb) from one point to the other

The units for potential difference are therefore Joules per coulomb, or volts.
(1 volt = 1 Joule/coulomb).

So if a charge Q moves between two points in a circuit that have a potential difference
of V volts between them the energy gained (or lost) by the charge is given by the
Electrical energy = Charge x Potential difference(Voltage)
Joules = Coulombs x Volts = Amps x Time x Volts
Electrical energy = ItV

Energy = VIt.SWF

Page 45 of 92
8 Calculate how much electrical energy is supplied by a 1.5V battery when:
(a) a charge of 1000C passes through it
(b) a current of 2.5A flows from it for 2s

9 How much energy is drawn from a 12V car battery if it is used to supply 200A
for 1.5s to the starter motor.

10 10 identical torch bulbs are connected in series across a 12 V d.c supply.

(a) What is the p.d across each bulb
(b) What is the potential at the join of the second and third bulbs from the
negative terminal?

11 (a) Write the word equation that defines potential difference.

(b) The unit of potential difference is the volt. Express the volt in terms of
base units only.
(c) A 6.0 V battery of negligible internal resistance is connected to a
filament lamp. The current in the lamp is 2.0 A.

Calculate how much energy is transferred in the filament when the battery is
connected for 2.0 minutes.

12 (a) State the word equation that is used to define charge.

(b) A 9.0 V battery of negligible internal resistance is connected to a light

Calculate the energy transferred in the light bulb when 20 C of charge flows
through it.

13 A thick wire is connected in series with a thin wire of the same material and a
(a) In which wire do the electrons have the greater drift velocity? Explain
your answer.
(b) A battery is connected across a large resistor and a small resistor is
connected in parallel. The currents through the resistors are different.
Which resistor has the higher dissipation of power? Explain your

Page 46 of 92
Variation of current with applied voltage
There are several ways in which the current through a device can be altered. Elastic
strain, temperature and light are examples of these. Figure 1 shows examples of
current- voltage curves for a number of different situations.

Voltage-current characteristics

The p.d. applied to the device is varied over a suitable

range and the current is measured.
The device is turned round to see if it behaves the A
same in both directions.

Graphs of current against voltage are plotted. Device

Filament lamp V


I V R increases with


R is constant


Semiconductor Diode
The diode allows current to flow
I freely in one direction only.
The current increases rapidly for
‘forward’ voltages greater than
0.5 V.

IV Graphs.SWF (Resistance at molecular level)

Page 47 of 92
Resistance and temperature
When a material is heated its resistance may change. This is due to the thermal
motion of the atoms within the specimen.
For a metal the temperature coefficient of resistance is positive - in other words and
increase in the temperature gives an increase in resistance. This can be explained by
the motion of the atoms and free electrons within the solid. At low temperatures the
thermal vibration is small and electrons can move easily within the lattice but at high
temperatures the motion increases giving a much greater chance of collisions between
the conduction electrons and the lattice and so impeding their motion. In a light bulb
the filament is at about 2700 o C when it is working and its resistance when hot is
about ten times that when cold. (For a typical domestic light bulb the resistance
measured at room temperature was 32 Ω and this rose to 324 Ω at its working
However in non- metals such as semiconductors an increase in temperature leads to a
drop in resistance. This can be explained by electrons gaining energy and moving
into the conduction band - in fact changing from being bound to a particular atom to
being able to move freely - an increase in the number of free electrons. The
temperature coefficient of resistance and also that of the temperature coefficient of
resistivity is therefore negative.

14 Why does the resistance of a metal increase as its temperature is raised?

15 Why does the resistance of a semiconductor decrease as its temperature is


16 Explain in terms of its „secret‟ composition, how the resistance of a fixed

resistor may remain constant as its temperature is raised?

Page 48 of 92
The free electrons in a metal are in
constant random motion. As they
move about they collide with each
other and with the atoms of the
metal. If a potential difference is
now applied across the metal the
electrons tend to move towards the
positive connection. As they do so
Figure 1
their progress is interrupted by electron metal atom
These collisions impede their movement and this property of the material is ca lled its
resistance. If the temperature of the metal is raised the atoms vibrate more strongly
and the electrons make more violent collisions with them and so the resistance o f the
metal increase. The electron drift velocity v (in the equation I = nAQv) decreases.

The resistance of any conducting material depends on the following factors:

 the material itself (actually how many free electrons there are per m3 )
 its length
 its cross-sectional area and
 its temperature

Resistivity of warm wire.GIF

The resistance of a given piece of material is related to the current flowing through it
and the potential difference between its ends by the equation:


The units of resistance are ohms (Ω).

If the ratio of p.d to current remains constant for a series of different p.d.s the material
is said to obey Ohm's Law. This is true for a metallic conductor at a constant
This means that although we can always work out the resistance of a specimen
knowing the current through it and the p.d across it. However if these quantities are
altered we can only PREDICT how it will behave under these new conditions if it
obeys Ohm's law.

It is also vital to realise that the resistance is simply the ratio of the voltage and
current at a particular point and NOT generally the gradient of the V I curve. (Resistance at molecular level)

Page 49 of 92
It is important to realise that Ohm‟s Law only holds for a metallic conductor if the
temperature is constant.
This means that if the temperature of the metal
is held steady at say 15o C the variation of Voltage
(V) 75oC
current and voltage will be linear. However if
the temperature of the metal changes (as in the
filament of a light bulb) then the resistance will
also change. The collisions between the
electrons and the atoms will occur more often
and be more violent.
So if the wire is raised to 75o C a second set of Current (I)
readings can be taken – they will still be linear
but the resistance of the wire (the ratio of V to I) Figure 3
will be greater (see Figure 3).
It is worth having a look at two graphs that show how the resistance of two types of
material change when their temperature is changed.
The first is a metal wire (Figure 4(a)), and the second is a (negative temperature
coefficient) thermistor (Figure 4 (b).


Current Current

Figure 4 (a) Figure 4 (b)

In the case of the metal wire the resistance increases as the temperature increases, you
can see this because the ratio of pairs of points on the V-I graph increases at high
currents (hot wires). In the case of the thermistor the resistance decreases as the
temperature increases, you can see because the ratio of pairs of points on the V-I
graph decreases at high currents (high temperatures.).

Although the gradients of the graphs suggest a change in resistance do not be tempted
to use the gradient to work out the resistance.
You must still deal with the voltage/current ratio only.

The reason that the thermistor decreases is because the thermistor is a semiconductor
and more free electrons are produced as the temperature is raised. The number n (in
the equation I = nAQv) increases.
(In fact more electrons are raised to the conduction band of the material.)

Page 50 of 92
17 Calculate the current through the following resistors:
(a) 120 Ω connected to 240V
(b) 4700 Ω connected to 12V
(c) 10kΩ connected to 6V
(d) 2.5MΩ connected to 25V

18 What is the resistance of the following?

(a) a lamp that draws 2A from a 12V supply
(b) a kettle that draws 4A from a 240V supply

19 The two graphs below show a specimen of metal wire at two different
I (A)

(a) Calculate the resistance of the wire at 10

each temperature

(b) Which graph shows the higher


(c) Does the material disobey Ohm's

Law? Explain your answer. V (V)

20 Why is it more likely for the filament in a light bulb to break when you switch
it on rather than when it has been on for some time? Explain your answer.

21 The circuit shows a battery of negligible internal resistance connected to three


(a) Calculate the potential difference across the 15  resistor.

(b) Calculate the current I1 in the 4.0  resistor.
(c) Calculate the current 12 and the resistance R.

Page 51 of 92
22 The circuit diagram shows a 12 V d.c. supply of negligible internal resistance
connected to an arrangement of resistors. The current at three places in the
circuit and the resistance of two of the resistors are given on the diagram.

(a) Calculate the potential difference across the 4.0  resistor.

(b) Calculate the resistance of resistor R2 .
(c) Calculate the resistance of resistor R1 .

23 Two filament lamps are designed to work from a 9.0 V supply but they have
different characteristics. The graph shows the current-potential difference
relationship for each lamp.

(a) The lamps are connected in parallel with a 9.0 V supply as shown.

(i) Which lamp is brighter? Give a reason for your answer.

(ii) Determine the current in the supply.
(iii) Calculate the total resistance of the two lamps when they are connected
in parallel.

Page 52 of 92
(b) The lamps are now connected in series to a variable supply which is adjusted
until the current is 0.8 A.

Compare and comment on the brightness of the lamps in this circuit.

24 A student connects the circuit as shown in the diagram.

(a) The reading on the voltmeter is 1.8 V. Calculate the current in the
(b) Calculate the resistance of the thermistor.

The graph shows how the resistance of the thermistor depends on its

(c) Determine the temperature of the thermistor.

(d) If the e.m.f, of the supply were doubled, would the reading on the
voltmeter double? Explain your answer.

Page 53 of 92
25 Use the axes to draw the current- voltage characteristics of a diode and a
filament lamp



Diode Filament lamp

Electrical Power
Power is the rate at which work is done or energy changed fro m one form to another
and so:
Energy V Q Q
Electrical Power   V V I
time t t
Energy  Power  time  V I t

Example problems
1. Calculate the power of a 12V light bulb using 2.5 A.
Power = VI = 12V x 2.5A = 30 W

2. Calculate the current used by a 12V immersion heater that is designed to

deliver 30000J in 5 minutes
Energy = Power x Time = 30000
30000 = Power x 300
Power = 100W.
Current I = P/V = 100W/12V = 8.3A

3. Calculate the energy transformed by a 12V car battery that delivers a

current of 200A for 3 s.
Energy = Power x time = VIt = 12 x 200 x 3 = 72 000 J

Two alternative formulae for electrical power

We can combine the formula R  with the basic formula for electrical power to
give two alternative formulae:
Since power = VI, we can write
Power  V I  I R 

Page 54 of 92
Example problems
1 Calculate the resistance of a 100W light bulb if it takes a current of 0.8 A
P 100W
P  I 2R  R  2   156 
I 0.8 A2
2 Calculate the power of a 12V immersion heater with a resistance of 10
V 2 12 2
P   14.4W
R 10
(Electricity Running Costs Calculator)

26 Calculate the power loss in an electrical transmission cable, 15 km long,

carrying a current of 100A at a potential of 200 kV. The resistance per km of
the cable is 0.2 Ω.

27 What power is supplied to the heater of an electric bar fire with a resistance of
50 Ω connected to the mains 240V supply?

28 What is the power loss down a copper connecting lead 50cm long with a
resistance of 0.005 Ω per metre when it carries a current of 1.5A?

29 A 240 V mains lamp draws a current of 2 A from the supply when operating
(a) the resistance of the lamp when hot
(b) the power of the lamp when operating normally
(c) the number of electrons passing through the lamp filament each second
(d) the energy transferred to each coulomb by the supply
(e) the energy transferred to each electron by the supply

30 What is the power of an electrical heater operating from 110 V if the

resistance of the heater is 15 ?

31 What is the power loss down a copper connecting lead 75cm long with a
resistance of 0.13  per metre when a current of 4.5 A flows through it?

Page 55 of 92
Two resistors in series (Figure 1)

Series circuit current.SWF Series circuit voltage.SWF

The current (I) flowing through R1 and R2 is the
same and so the potential differences across them
are V1 = IR1 and V2 = IR2
V  V1  V2
R1 R2
R is the effective series resistance of the two
resistors. V1 V2
So: Figure 1
V  IR  IR1  IR2
R  R1  R2

Two resistors in parallel (Figure 2)

Parallel circuit current.SWF Parallel circuit voltage.SWF

The potential difference (V) across each of the two

resistors is the same and the current (I) flowing into
junction A is equal to the sum of the currents in the two R1
branches, therefore: I I1
I  I1  I 2 A I2

V  IR1  IR21 1 1
Figure 2
V V V  RR R
I   1 2
R R1 R2
where R is the effective resistance of the two resistors in parallel.

Notice that
 two resistors in series always have a larger effective resistance than either of
the two resistors on their own
 two in parallel always have a lower resistance than either of the two resistors
on their own
This means that connecting two or more resistors in parallel, such as the use of a
mains adaptor, will increase the current drawn from a supply.

Resistances in parallel.mdl

Page 56 of 92
1 Calculate the resistance of the following combinations:
(a) 100 Ω and 50 Ω in series
(b) 100 Ω and 50 Ω in parallel
(a) R = R1 + R2 = 100 + 50 = 150
1 1 1
 
(b) R 100 50
R  33

2 Calculate the current flowing through the following when a p.d of 12V
is applied across the ends:
(a) 200 Ω and 1000 Ω in series
(b) 200 Ω and 1000 Ω in parallel
(a) R = 1200  I = V/R = 12/1200 = 0.01 A = 10 mA
(b) R = 167  I = V/R = 12/167 = 0.072 A = 72 mA

3 You are given one 100 Ω resistor and two 50 Ω resistors. How would you
connect any combination of them to give a combined resistance of:
(a) 200 Ω, (b) 125 Ω
(a) 100  in series with both the 50 
(b) the two 50  in parallel and this in series with the 100 

32 Four 10  resistors are connected as shown in the diagram

(a) Calculate the total resistance of the combination.

(b) Comment on your answer and suggest why such a combination of resistors
might be used.

33 Complete each of the following statements in words:

(a) The resistance of an ammeter is assumed to be
(b) The resistance of a voltmeter is assumed to be
(c) Calculate the total resistance of four 5.0  resistors connected in

Page 57 of 92
34 An electric room heater consists of three heating elements connected in
parallel across a power supply.

Each element is made from a metal wire of resistivity () 5.5 x 10-5  m at room
temperature. The wire has a cross-sectional area (A) 8.0 x 10-7 m2 and length  
0.65 m.
The heater is controlled by two switches, X and Y.
(a) Show that the resistance of one heating element at room temperature is
approximately 45  .
 
R   
 A
(b) Calculate the total resistance of the heater for the following
combinations of switches at the moment the switches are closed.

Switch X Switch Y Resistance of

Open Closed
Closed Open
Closed Closed

(c) Calculate the maximum power output from the heater immediately it is
connected to a 230 V supply.

(d) After being connected to the supply for a few minutes the power output
falls to a lower steady value. Explain why this happens.

Page 58 of 92
There are three factors that affect the resistance of a specimen of material:
 the temperature
 the dimensions of the specimen - the smaller the cross sectional area and the
longer the specimen the larger the resistance
 the material from which the specimen is made


The property of the material that affects its resistance is called the resistivity of the
material and is given the symbol .
Resistivity is related to resistance of a specimen of length l and cross sectional area A
by the formula:

 RA Resistivity & Area.GIF

R   The units for resistivity are Ωm
A 
The following table gives the resistivities of a number of common materials.

Material Resistivity (x 10-8 Ωm) Material Resistivity (Ωm)

Copper 1.69 Non metals 104
Nichrome 130 Insulators 10 - 1016

Aluminium 3.21 Germanium 0.65

Eureka 49 Silicon 2.3x10-5
Lead 20.8 Carbon 33 - 185x10-8
Manganin 44 Silver 1.6x10-8

The resistivities of solutions cannot be quoted generally because they depend on the
concentrations and are therefore variable quantities. As an example however the
resistivity of pure water is about 2.5 x105 m and that of a saturated solution of
sodium chloride about 0.04  m at 20o C.
The reciprocal of resistivity is known as the conductivity of the material ()

1. Calculate the resistance of a 1.5 m long piece of eureka wire of diameter 0.5 mm
 49  10 8 m  1.5m
R   3.7 
A 
  0.25  10 3 m  2

2. A piece of wire needed for a heater is to be made of Manganin. It is to have a cross

sectional area of 1.5x10-7 m2 and a resistance of 5 Ω. How long must it be?
RA 5  1.5  10 7 m 2
   1.7 m
 44  10 8 m

Page 59 of 92
Resistivity of copper 1.7 x 10-8 m
Resistivity of constantan 47 x 10-8 m
Resistivity of germanium 0.65 m
35 Calculate the length of a copper wire of cross sectional area 0.65 x10 -7 m2 that
has a resistance of 2Ω

36 Calculate the resistivity of a material if a 2.6 m length of wire of that material

with a diameter of 0.56 mm has a resistance of 3Ω.

37 Calculate the resistance between the large faces of a slab of germanium of

thickness 1 mm and area 1.5 mm2 .

38 Calculate the length of a section of constantan wire of diameter 0.32 mm that

has a resistance of 10 Ω

39 (a) A student is asked to carry out an experiment to find the resistivity of

the material of a length of resistance wire. Draw an appropriate circuit
(b) List all the measurements the student should take to find the resistivity.
(c) How should these measurements be used to find the resistivity?
(d) Suggest two precautions the student should take to ensure an accurate

40 Lord Kelvin discovered that the electrical resistance of iron wire changed
when the wire was stretched or compressed. This is the principle on which a
resistance strain gauge is based. Such a gauge consists of a length of very fine
iron wire cemented between two very thin sheets of paper.

(a) The cross-sectional area of the wire is 1.1 x 10 -7 m2 and the gauge length
as shown in the diagram is 2.4 x 10-2 m. The resistivity of iron is
9.9 x 10-8  m. Calculate the resistance of the strain gauge.
(b) When this gauge is stretched its length is increased by 0.1% but its cross-
sectional area remains the same. What is the change in the resistance of
the gauge?
(c) Explain the effect that stretching the wire will have on the drift velocity of
electrons in the wire. Assume that the other physical dimensions of the
wire remain unchanged and that there is a constant potential difference
across the wire.

Page 60 of 92
41 The diagram shows a type of resistor commonly used in electronic circuits.

It consists of a thin film of carbon wrapped around a cylindrical insulator. The

diagram below (not to scale) shows a typical film of carbon, resistivity p,
before it is wrapped round the insulator.

(a) Show that the resistance R of the carbon film is given by

(b) This film has length l = 8.0 mm, width w = 3.0 mm and thickness t =
0.0010 mm (i.e. t = 1.0 x 10-6 m). If the resistivity of carbon is 6.0 x
10-5  m, calculate the resistance of the carbon film.

(c) Show that the resistance of a square piece of carbon film of uniform
thickness is independent of the length of the sides of the square.

Page 61 of 92
Electromotive force and internal resistance
When current flows round a circuit energy is transformed in both the external
resistor but also in the cell itself. All cells have a resistance of their own and we
call this the internal resistance of the cell. The voltage produced by the cell is
called the electromotive force or e.m.f for short and this produces a p.d across
the cell and across the external resistor.

The e.m.f of the cell can be defined as the maximum E

p.d that the cell can produce across its terminals or the r
open circuit p.d since when no current flows from the R
cell then no electrical energy can be lost within it.
r R
Consider the circuit shown in Figure 1. If the e.m.f of
the cell is E and the internal resistance is r and the cell
is connected to an external resistance R then:
E  V  Ir  IR  Ir
The quantity of useful electrical energy available
outside the cell is IR and Ir is the energy transformed
to other forms within the cell itself. Figure 1

We usually require the internal resistance of a cell to be small to reduce the

energy transformed within the cell; however it is sometimes helpful to have a
rather larger internal resistance to prevent large currents from flowing if the cell
terminals are shorted.

The more correct definition of emf is

energy transformed in the complete circuit

 
I 2 Rt  I 2 rt

 IR  Ir
 V  Ir

Hence V  E  Ir , and E = V when I = 0, i.e. when the load R is infinite (VERY

BIG). We say that the battery (cell) is on open circuit.

Page 62 of 92
Example problem
A cell of e.m.f 12V and internal resistance 0.1Ω is used in two circuits. Calculate
the p.d between its terminals when it is connected to
(a) 10 Ω and (b) 0.2 Ω .
(a) Total resistance = 10 + 0.1 = 10.1 Ω
Therefore current =  1.19 A
Loss of energy per coulomb in the cell = 1.19 x 0.1 = 0.119V
P.d between terminals = 12 - 0.119 = 11.88V = 11.9 V

(b) Total resistance = 0.2 + 0.1 = 0.3 Ω

Therefore current =  40 A
Loss of energy per coulomb in the cell = 40 x 0.1 = 4V
P.d between terminals = 12 - 4 = 8V

Short circuit current

When a power supply is short-circuited by connecting the terminals together
with a low resistance (R), the total resistance of the circuit is almost entirely due
to the internal resistance (r) of the power supply.
Car batteries need to supply currents up to 200 A, so they are designed to have
very low internal resistance.

High-voltage power supplies are designed to have large internal resistance so as

to prevent them from supplying dangerously high currents.

Experiment to measure internal resistance

R may be varied and a range of values of V and I
are measured.
Keep a record of values of R for later. E
E  IR  Ir r
V  IR
V  E  Ir
  rI  E
Gradient = -r
A graph of V against I is plotted.
The graph is a straight line
which has a gradient - r
and a „y intercept‟ E

Page 63 of 92
The power transformed in the load R is P  VI
How can we maximise the power? Make V and I as large as possible.
What is the largest possible value of V? E
How big is the current when V  E? Zero!
What happens to V if we try to increase the current? V decreases.

Maximum power is delivered to the load when the load resistance R equals the
internal resistance r of the supply.

Microsoft Office
Excel 97-2003 Worksheet

42 What is meant by:

(a) the E.M.F. of a cell
(b) the internal resistance of a cell?

43 How does the internal resistance of a cell affect the current drawn from it?

44 A cell of e.m.f 3.0 V is connected to a resistor of 2700  and when a voltmeter

of very high resistance is connected across its terminals the voltmeter reads
2.8 V
(a) Explain the difference between these two voltages
(b) Calculate the internal resistance of the cell
(c) Calculate the new reading of the voltmeter if the voltmeter has a
resistance of 1500 .

45 A student wants to measure the internal resistance of a cell and he connects it

in series with an ammeter and a variable resistor. The student then connects a
voltmeter across the variable resistor and, for different settings of the variable
resistor, obtains the following readings:

V/V 1.43 1.41 1.39 1.33 1.20

/mA 143 176 231 333 600

Plot a graph of V against  and deduce the internal resistance and e.m.f. of the
(V = E -  r or V = -r  + E )

Page 64 of 92
46 A resistance substitution box R is connected to a power supply. For various
values of R the current  is measured.

R/ 8.0 6.0 4.0 2.0 1.0 0.80 0.60

/mA 167 214 300 500 750 833 938


(a) Calculate the power of the resistor for each value of R.

(b) Predict the power of the resistor when R is zero and when R is
infinitely large.
(c) Plot a graph of the power, P (dissipated in R) against resistance R.
(d) For what value of R is the power a maximum?
(e) The internal resistance of the power supply is known to be 1.0 .

47 Why are car batteries designed to have negligible internal resistance whereas
high voltage (EHT) laboratory supplies are manufactured with a very large
internal resistance?

Page 65 of 92
Potential divider
The basic circuit is shown in the first circuit diagram. The output voltage across AB is
given by:

 V   R2 
V2  I R2     R2    V R1
 1
R  R2  1
R  R2

Note that the input voltage (V) in this case

supplied by the battery is constant. The V A
current flowing through both resistors is the
same (series circuit) and so the output R2 V2
voltage across one of them depends simply
on the two resistance values and the input B

Measuring the output

If we now attempt to actually measure the output voltage things may change.
(a) Firstly consider using a digital voltmeter with very high (if not virtually
infinite) resistance (R V). The resistor R2 and the voltmeter are connected in
parallel and so their combined resistance (R) is given by the equation;

1 1 1
 
RV is huge – almost
infinite and so  0 and
can be ignored. This
1 1 R2 V2 VO
means that  and Digital
R R2 voltmeter
so R  R2 .

The output voltage (V0 ) measured by the meter really is that across R2 , in other
words V2 .

Page 66 of 92
(b) A moving coil meter.
These meters have a
much lower resistance
than a digital meter, R1
usually some tens of k.
This means that the
combined resistance of
R2 and RV is affected by V
the resistance of the
voltmeter and is actually
R2 V2 VO
lower than R2 . coil

The proportion of the input voltage (V) dropped across R2 therefore falls and so the
output voltage (V0 ) is less than that measured with a digital meter.

Replacing R 1 with a Light dependent resistor (LDR)

The LDR is a component that has a
resistance that changes when light falls on
it. As the intensity of the light is increased
so the resistance of the LDR falls. R1
If the LDR is connected as part of a
potential divider as shown in the diagram
then as the light level is increased its
resistance falls and the proportion of the V
input voltage dropped across it will also LDR
fall. V2
So in the light V2 is low and in the dark
V2 is high.

Replacing R1 with a thermistor

Something very similar happens if R2 is R1
replaced by a thermistor. As the
temperature of the thermistor rises its
resistance falls and so the voltage dropped
across it falls. V

When the thermistor is hot V2 is low and V2

when the thermistor is cold V2 is high. thermistor
(Practice questions)

Page 67 of 92
48 Complete the following table showing the readings of a digital voltmeter of
infinite resistance for the output voltage (V) for a series of different resistances
and input voltages.

Input R1 / R2 / Output R1
voltage (Vo ) voltage (V)
12 100 k 200k
6 25 k 10 k Vo
24 5k 20 k
6 250 100

49 Repeat question one but this time assume that the meter connected to measure
the output voltage is an analogue meter with a resistance of 200 k.

Input voltage (V0 ) R1 / R2 / Output voltage (V)

12 100 k 200k
6 25 k 10 k
24 5k 20 k
6 250 100

50 Now assume that resistor R1 is

replaced by a thermistor T1 (one where
the resistance decreases as the
temperature rises). T1
If the values of the resistance R2 and
the thermistor are equal at the start
what will happen to the output Vo
potential difference (V) as the
thermistor is cooled?

51 The thermistor is now replaced by an LDR. What happens to the output

potential difference (V) as the light intensity falling on the LDR is increased?

52 Assuming that the voltmeter used to measure V in Q51 has an almost infinite
resistance what happens to the current through R2 as the light intensity falling
on the LDR is decreased?

Page 68 of 92
53 A student connects a 9.0 V battery in series with a resistor R, a thermistor and
a milliammeter. He connects a voltmeter in parallel with the resistor. The
reading on the voltmeter is 2.8 V and the reading on the milliammeter is
0.74 mA.

(a) (i) Show that the resistance of R is approximately 4000 .

(ii) Calculate the resistance of the thermistor

(b) The thermistor is mounted on a plastic base that has steel sprung clips
for secure connection in a circuit board.

Another student is using an identical circuit except that the bare metal pins of
his thermistor are twisted together.

(c) Suggest an explanation for how the reading on this student's

milliammeter will compare with that of the first student.

Page 69 of 92
54 (a) A student sets up a circuit and accidentally uses two voltmeters V1 and
V2 instead of an ammeter and a voltmeter. The circuit is shown below.

(i) Circle the voltmeter which should be an ammeter.

(ii) Both voltmeters have a resistance of 10 M. The student sees that the
reading on V2 is 0 V. Explain why the potential difference across the
100  resistor is effectively zero.

(b) The student replaces the 100  resistor with another resistor of
resistance R.
The reading on V2 then becomes 3.0 V.
(i) Complete the circuit diagram
below to show the equivalent
resistor network following this
Label the resistor R.

(ii) Calculate the value of R.

Page 70 of 92
55 A light-emitting diode (LED) is a diode that emits light when it conducts. Its
circuit symbol is

A student connects the circuit shown below.

She notices that the reading on the high resistance voltmeter remains at 0 Vas
she slides the contact between terminals A and B.

(a) Explain this observation as fully as you can.

(b) The student then disconnects the LED and reconnects the circuit as shown
below. She intends to vary the intensity of the light emitted by the LED by
sliding the contact between terminals A and B.

The student cannot detect any light emitted by the LED. Briefly explain why
the LED is so dim.

(c) Draw the circuit that the student should have connected using this
apparatus in order to vary the brightness of the LED and measure the
potential difference across it.

Page 71 of 92
56 The following circuit can be used as a light meter.

(a) The maximum value of resistance of the light-dependent resistor (LDR) is

950 k.
What is the reading on the voltmeter for this resistance?

(b) The minimum value of resistance of the LDR is 1.0 k  . What is the
reading on the voltmeter for this resistance?

(c) For this light meter the voltmeter is connected across the 10 k  resistor,
rather than the LDR. Explain how the readings on the voltmeter enable
this circuit to be used as a light meter.

57 Two resistors of resistance 2.0 M and 4.0  are connected in series across a
supply voltage of 6.0 V. Together they form a simple potential divider circuit.
State the potential difference across each

P.d. across the 2.0 M resistor =

P.d. across the 4.0  resistor =

A second potential divider circuit uses a resistor and a diode connected in

series with the same supply. Calculate the potential difference across each
component when the resistance of the resistor and diode are 45  and 5.0 

P.d. across the 45  resistor =

P.d. across the diode =

Page 72 of 92
Nature of light
The Photoelectric Effect
When is a wave not a wave - when it's a particle!
In 1887 Heinrich Hertz noticed that sparks would jump between two spheres when
their surfaces were illuminated by light from another spark. This effect was studied
more carefully in the following years by Hallwachs and Le nard. They called the
effect photoelectric e mission and a very simple experiment can be used to investigate


Leaf falls
no effect no eff ect immediately

In the diagram shown above a clean zinc plate is fitted to the top of a gold leaf
electroscope and then given a positive charge (you can do this either with a charged
glass rod or an EHT supply. The next thing is to shine some radiation on it, using an
ordinary lamp, a helium- neon laser (giving out intense red light) or an ultra violet
light has absolutely no effect. The electroscope stays charged and the leaf stays up.
However if the plate is given a negative charge to start with (using say a charged
polythene rod) there is a difference. Using the lamp and even the laser has no effect,
but when ultra violet light is shone on the plate the leaf falls immediately: the
electroscope has been discharged. (Doing the experiment in a vacuum proves that it is
not ions in the air that are causing the discharge.)
No effect can be produced with radiation of longer wavelength (lower frequency) no
matter how long the radiation is shone on the plate.
The plate was emitting electrons when the ultra violet radiation fell on it and this
explained why the leaf only fell when it had an initial negative charge - when it was
positive the
electrons were attracted back to the plate.
The researchers found five important facts about the experiment:
 no electrons were emitted from the plate if it was positive
 the number of electrons emitted per second depended on the intensity of the
incident radiation
 the energy of the electrons depended on the frequency of the incident radiation
 there was a minimum frequency (f 0 ) below which no electrons were emitted no
matter how long radiation fell on the surface
 If electrons are emitted this occurs immediately

Page 73 of 92
This minimum frequency is called the threshold frequency for that material. Photons with a
lower frequency will never cause electron emission. This can be explained as follows

The free electrons are held in the metal in a "hole" in the electric field, this is called a
potential well. Energy has to be supplied to them to enable them to escape from the surface.
Think of a person down a hole with very smooth sides. They can only escape if they can
jump out of the hole in one go. They cannot get half way up and then have a rest - it's all or
nothing! This is just like the electrons. The deeper the "hole" the more tightly bound the
electrons are and the greater energy and therefore the greater is the frequency of radiation that
is needed to release them.

The quantum theory of Max Planck is needed to explain the photoelectric effect. In
trying to explain the variation of energy with wavelength for the radiation emitted by
hot objects he came to the conclusion that all radiation is emitted in quanta and the
energy of one quantum or photon is given by the equation:

Photon Energy  hf

The amount of energy needed to just release a photoelectron is known as the work function
for the metal. This can also be expressed in terms of the minimum frequency that will cause
photoelectric emission.

Work Function   hf 0

The table below gives the work function for a number of surfaces - both in joules and in
electron volts. The threshold frequency for each surface is also included.

Work function / 10-19 J /eV Frequency Wavelength

/1014 Hz /nm
Sodiu m 3.8 2.40 5.8 520
Caesiu m 3.0 1.88 4.5 666
Lithiu m 3.7 2.31 5.6 560
Calciu m 4.3 2.69 6.5 462
Magnesium 5.9 3.69 8.9 337
Silver 7.6 4.75 11.4 263
Platinu m 10.0 6.75 15.1 199

Another way of looking at it is to think of a fairground coconut shy. A brother and sister are
trying to knock the coconuts off their stands. The boy has a large box of table tennis balls
which he is throwing at the coconuts, with little effect. No matter how many of the table
tennis balls he throws at a coconut it will still stay in place – the table tennis balls represent
the “red” quanta. However his sister has a pistol! This represents the violet quanta. A single
shot from the pistol will knock off a coconut and it will do it immediately.

As we saw in the previous experiment we could illuminate the zinc plate all day with a high
powered laser and the leaf of the electroscope would not fall. However as soon as we shone
the ultra violet light on the plate the leaf dropped. This is because the ultra violet light has a
high enough frequency and therefore each quantum of ultra violet has sufficient energy. One
quantum has enough energy to kick out an electron in one go.

The photoelectric effect is therefore very good evidence for the particulate nature of light.

Page 74 of 92
Measuring the Planck Constant (h = 6.6 x 10-34 J s)

lens * lamp

sodium V



For each coloured filter the positive potential
(„stopping‟) potential on the cathode is
increased until the ammeter reading is zero
- this means that no photoelectrons
are reaching the detector. Metal 1

A graph can then be plotted of stopping potential Metal 2

(electron energy) against frequency.

Theory fo Frequenc

If hf   (or f  ), f is the threshold frequency for that metal, and electrons are
just able to be removed. However they will have no K.E. after they have been
If hf   , the surplus photon energy hf    is given to the electron as kinetic
A stopping p.d. is applied so that the collector is negative with respect to the emitter
and this makes it difficult for the electrons to reach the collector.
As this reverse voltage V is gradually increased the ammeter reading is reduced.
Eventually when eV  kemax the ammeter reading will be ZERO and electrons will
no longer be able to reach the collector.

eV  hf  
h 
V f 
e e
A graph of V v f is plotted, and
h  
gradient = y intercept =  x intercept = 
e e h

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If we change the sensitive surface to another metal (metal 2) with a higher work
function then since the gradient of the line is constant   and we simply get a
second line parallel to the first but shifted to the right.

This simple experiment is very good evidence that light sometimes behaves like a
stream of particles.

Charge on the electron = (-)1.6 x 10-19 C

Planck‟s constant = 6.63 x 10-34 Js
Speed of light in free space = 3.00 x 108 ms-1
Mass of an electron = 9.11 x 10-31 kg

1 What is meant by a quantum or photon?

2 Write down Planck‟s equation for the energy of a quantum of radiation.

3 Which has the greater energy, a quantum of yellow light or a quantum of

violet light?

4 Which experiment shows waves behaving like particles?

5 What is meant by the “stopping potential” in the photoelectric effect?

6 What is meant by the “work function” in the photoelectric effect?

7 What is the energy of a quantum of radiation that has a wavelength of 500 nm?

8 What is meant by an “electron volt”?

9 If the frequency of the incident radiation that falls on a metal surface is

increased what happens to the photoelectrons that are emitted?

10 If the intensity of the incident radiation that falls on a metal surface is

increased what happens to the photoelectrons that are emitted?

11 (a) Light of wavelength 480 nm just gives photoelectric emission from the
certain metal surface. What is the work function of that surface in

(b) If the wavelength is reduced to 400 nm what is the energy of the

electrons emitted?

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12 The diagram shows monochromatic light falling on a photocell.

The photocell is connected so that there is a reverse potential difference across the
cathode and the anode.

(a) Explain the following observations.

(i) Initially there is a current which is measured by the
microammeter. As the reverse potential difference is increased
the current reading on the microammeter decreases.
(ii) When the potential difference reaches a certain value V, the
stopping potential, the current is zero.
(b) What would be the effect on the value of the stopping potential V S of
(i) increasing the intensity of the incident radiation whilst keeping
its frequency constant.
(ii) increasing the frequency of the incident radiation whilst
keeping its intensity constant?

13 Photoelectrons are emitted from the surface of a metal when radiation above a
certain frequency, f o , is incident upon it. The maximum kinetic energy of the
emitted electrons is EK.
(a) On the axes below sketch a graph to show how EK varies with frequency f.


(b) State how the work function,  , of the metal can be obtained from the graph.

(c) Explain why this graph always has the same gradient irrespective of the metal

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14 The diagram shows a coulombmeter (an instrument for measuring charge) set
up to demonstrate the photoelectric effect.

The clean zinc plate is negatively charged. Ultraviolet light is shone onto the
zinc plate and the plate discharges. The coulombmeter reading gradually falls
to zero. When the experiment is repeated with red light the plate does not

(a) Explain these effects in terms of the particle theory of light.

(b) What would happen to the charged plate if
(i) the intensity of the red light were increased
(ii) the intensity of the ultraviolet light were increased?
(c) Zinc has a work function of 3.6 eV. Calculate the maximum kinetic
energy of the photoelectrons when the zinc is illuminated with
ultraviolet light of wavelength 250 nm.

15 The photoelectric effect supports a particle theory of light but not a wave
theory of light.

Below are two features of the photoelectric effect. For each feature explain
why it supports the particle theory and not the wave theory.

(a) Feature 1: The emission of photoelectrons from a metal surface can take
place instantaneously.

(b) Feature 2: Incident light with a frequency below a certain threshold

frequency cannot release electrons from a metal surface.

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16 (a) Define the intensity of an electromagnetic wave.
(b) Two beams of monochromatic electromagnetic radiation, A and B,
have equal intensities.
Their wavelengths are:
Beam A 300 nm
Beam B 450 nm
In the table below, E denotes the energy of a photon and N denotes the number
of photons passing per second through unit area normal to the beam. The
subscripts A and B refer to the two beams. In the second column of the table,
state the value of each ratio, and in the third column explain your answer.

Ratio Value Explanation



(c) The table below gives the work functions of four metals.

Metal Work function/eV

Potassium 2.26
Magnesium 3.68
Tungsten 4.49
Iron 4.63

Define the term work function.

(d) A metal plate made from one of these metals is exposed to beams A
and B in turn. Beam A causes electrons to be emitted from the plate,
but beam B does not. Calculate the photon energies in each beam and
hence deduce from which metal the plate is made.

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17 A monochromatic light source is placed 120 mm above the cathode of a

(a) The light source consumes 6 W of power and is 15% efficient.

Calculate the light intensity at the cathode. State an assumption that
you made.

A potential difference is applied between the cathode and the anode of the
photocell and the sensitive ammeter detects the current.

The table below shows the currents that are obtained with this apparatus for
two different intensities and two different wavelengths of light, using two
different cathode materials. Work function energies are given.

Wavelength when intensity of incident
Cathode Work
of incident radiation is
material function/eV
1 W m-2 5 W m-2
320 Aluminium 4.1 0 0
640 Aluminium 4.1 0 0
320 Lithium 2.3 0.2 x 10-12 1.0 x 10-12
640 Lithium 2.3 0 0

(b) Show that the incident photons of  = 320 nm and)  = 640 nm have
energies of approximately 4 eV and 2 eV respectively.

(c) Account for the photocurrent readings shown in the table.

(d) Calculate the stopping potential for the photoelectrons released by

lithium when irradiated by light of wavelength 320 nm.

Page 80 of 92
18 The table below shows the results of an experiment like Millikan‟s using
sodium as the metal plate.

Stopping voltage Vs /V Frequency of light f / 1014 Hz

0.43 5.49
1.00 6.91
1.18 7.41
1.56 8.23
2.19 9.61
3.00 11.83

(a) Plot a graph of Vs against f.

The following equation applies to the photoelectric effect:

hf    eVS

where  is the work function of the metal and e is the charge on an


(b) What information about the electrons emitted does the value of the
term eV S give?

Page 81 of 92
Spectra and energy levels
The atoms in the tube are excited and as a Narrow slit
result, they emit radiation.

When the radiation from excited atoms is

viewed through a diffraction grating lines
are seen at different angles.

These correspond to images formed by Diffraction

light of different wavelengths (and Grating
frequencies). Gas discharge tube
containing e.g.
The emission line spectrum pattern is sodium vapour
characteristic of the gas in the tube.

Line spectra & electron transitions.SWF

Electron energy levels

 Electrons are held in atoms at only certain energy levels.
 Normally an electron will lie in its lowest energy state - the ground state.
Ionised state
(13.6) When an electron is given sufficient energy
-0 eV
to rise to one of the higher energy states the
(12.75) -0.85
atom is said to be „excited‟.
(12.1) 2nd excited state
-1.5 eV The electron may remain above the ground
(10.2) 1st excited state state temporarily, but it will usually drop
-3.4 eV back to the ground state, either directly or
via another energy level, giving out energy
Ground state as it does so.
-13.6 eV

 The energy levels for atoms are fixed.

 Only certain changes in energy are possible.
 To move between any two of these levels an electron needs to give out or
receive a definite amount of energy.

E3 Small jumps mean small energy

E = E3 – E2 = h f changes, which correspond to low
frequencies of radiation and large .
E = E2 – E1 = h f Big jumps mean large energy changes,
which correspond to high frequencies of
radiation and small .

Page 82 of 92
The atoms of each element have a characteristic set of energy levels, and so emit a
characteristic set of frequencies when they are excited.
 You can identify an element from the frequencies of radiation it emits when

Emission spectra of different atoms.SWF

R G V White V G R

Example problem
Calculate the frequency and wavelength of a quantum of radiation emitted when an electron
in level 4 falls to level 2.

Energy of level 4 = - 1.36 x 10-19 J

Energy of level 2 = - 5.42 x 10-19 J
Energy difference (E) = + 4.06 x 10-19 J

E 4.06  10 19
f    6.12  1014
h 6.63  10 34
3.00  108
  4.9  10 7 m 490 nm / blue  green 
6.12  1014

A typical absorption spectrum

Emission & absorption spectra.SWF

Page 83 of 92
(1 eV = 1.60 x 10-19 J)
19 The diagram shows some of the energy
levels for an atom of hydrogen.
Photons are emitted when an electron
moves down from one level to another.
(a) When an electron moves from
level 2 to level 1, what is
(i) its loss of energy in eV
(ii) its loss of energy in J
(iii) the frequency of the emitted photon
(iv) the wavelength of the emitted photon
(v) the part of the electromagnetic spectrum
in which this radiation occurs?

(b) Repeat part (a) for an electron moving from leve1 3 to level 2.
(c) Repeat part (a) for an electron moving from leve1 4 to level 3.

20 The two lowest excited states of a hydrogen atom are 10.2 eV and 12.1 eV
above the ground state.
(a) Calculate three wavelengths of radiation that could be produced by
transitions between these states and the ground state.
(b) In which parts of the spectrum would you expect to find these

21 The figure shows an energy level diagram.

Sketch a possible line spectrum for the light
emitted when electrons make the transitions
Label the lines, using the letters shown in the
diagram, and indicate on your spectrum diagram
which end corresponds to the higher frequency.

22 The four lowest energy levels for an atom consist of the ground state and three
levels above that. How many transitions are possible between these four

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23 The figure shows three energy
levels for a particular atom.
When an electron moves from level1
to the ground state the light emitted is blue.
In what part of the spectrum would
you expect to find the radiation
emitted when an electron moves
from level 2 to the ground state?

24 Refer to the diagram in Q19

(a) If the atom is in the ground state, how much energy must be given to it
to ionise it?

(b) Suppose an electron of energy 2.2 eV collides with the atom. Explain
the possible results if
(i) the atom is in the ground state
(ii) its electron is at the -3.41 eV level

(c) What is the wavelength of the photon that could raise an electron from
the -0.849 eV level to the -0.545 eV level?

(d) If an electron returns from the -0.849 eV level to the ground state,
what is the wavelength of the photon emitted?

25 Some of the energy levels for the sodium atom are -1.51 eV, -1.94 eV, -3.03
eV (two levels very close together) and -5.14 eV; which is the ground state.
Draw a labelled diagram for these levels, and describe and explain what might
happen if cool sodium vapour (i.e. sodium whose atoms are in the ground
state) is bombarded with

(a) electrons whose k.e. is 2.00 eV

(b) electrons whose k.e. is 2.50 eV

(c) light of wavelength 590 nm.

Page 85 of 92
26 Four of the energy levels of a lithium atom are shown below.

(a) Draw on the diagram all the possible transitions which the atom could make
when going from the -3.84 eV level to the -5.02 eV level.

(b) Photons of energy 3.17 eV are shone onto atoms in lithium vapour. Mark on
the diagram, and label with a T, the transition which could occur.

(c) One way to study the energy levels of an atom is to scatter electrons from it
and measure their kinetic energies before and after the collision. If an electron
of kinetic energy 0.92 eV is scattered from a lithium atom which is initially in
the -5.02 eV level, the scattered electron can have only two possible kinetic

State these two kinetic energy values, and explain what has happened to the
lithium atom in each case. (You should assume that the lithium atom was at
rest both before and after the collision.)

Kinetic energy 1

Kinetic energy 2

Page 86 of 92
27 The diagram shows the lowest four energy levels of atomic hydrogen.

(a) Calculate the ionisation energy in joules for atomic hydrogen.

(b) On the diagram above draw

(i) a transition marked with an R which shows a photon released with
the longest wavelength,
(ii) a transition marked with an A which shows a photon absorbed
with the shortest wavelength.

(c) Describe how you would produce and observe the emission spectrum of
hydrogen in the laboratory.

(d) What would such a spectrum look like?

Page 87 of 92
28 The diagram shows some of the energy levels of a mercury atom.

a. Calculate the ionisation energy in joules for an electron in the -10.4

eV level.

b. A proton of kinetic energy 9.2 eV collides with a mercury atom. As a

result, an electron in the atom moves from the -10.4 eV level to the -
1.6 eV level. What is the kinetic energy in eV of the proton after the

c. A transition between which two energy levels in the mercury atom

will give rise to an emission line of wavelength 320 nm?

Page 88 of 92
Conservation of energy for waves
Inverse square law
A point source of waves emits energy equally in all directions

If energy is conserved then as the waves spread out the same energy is spread over a
larger area.

Inverse square law.SWF

The energy flux or intensity is defined as

power P
 
area 4 r 2

This relationship is called the inverse square law.

When the distance is doubled the energy flux is reduced by a factor of four.

29 (a) Explain what is meant by the inverse square law of electroma gnetic
waves such as visible light.
(b) Explain how this inverse square law is consistent with the law of
conservation of energy.

30 A light with an output in the visible range of 50 W is switched on at night at

the top of a high tower. Calculate the intensity of the light from the tower at
distances of
(a) l00 m (b) 200 m (c) 300 m.

31 A 60 W light bulb converts electrical energy to visible light with an efficiency

of 8%. Calculate the visible light intensity 2 m away from the light bulb.

32 The minimum intensity that can be detected by a given radio receiver is

2.2  10-5 W m-2 .
Calculate the maximum distance that the receiver can be from a 10 kW
transmitter so that it is just able to detect the signal.

33 In listening to a person talking to you who is standing 4.0 m away the intensity
of the sound at your ear is 1.2 W m-2 . What is the power output power of the
speaker's voice?

34 A radio-operated garage door opener responds to signals with intensity greater

than 20 W m-2 . For a 250 mW transmitter unit that broadcasts equally in all
directions, what is the maximum distance from the garage at which the
transmitter will open the door?

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35 A communication satellite is in orbit above the Earth‟s surface.
(a) The satellite‟s-electrical system is powered by 20 000 photovoltaic
cells, each of area 10 cm2 . The intensity of the sunlight falling on the
cells is 1.4 kWm-2 . The cells produce 5.0 kW of electrical power.
Calculate the efficiency of the cells in transferring solar energy to
electrical energy.

(b) (i) The satellite generates a signal of power 5.0 kW and orbits at a
height of 3.6 x 104 km above the Earth‟s surface. Calculate the
intensity which is detected at the Earth‟s surface if the satellite
transmits uniformly in all directions. Assume there is no
absorption of the signal along its path.

(ii) In practice, reflectors on the satellite focus all the 5.0 kW of

transmitted power onto a small area of the Earth‟s surface. If
this area is a circle of diameter 1000 km, calculate the intensity
that would be detected there. Assume there is no absorption of
the signal along its path.

36 A leaf of a plant tilts towards the Sun to receive solar radiation of intensity
1.1 kW m-2 , which is incident at 50 to the surface of the leaf.

(a) The leaf is almost circular with an average radius of 29 mm. Show that the
power of the radiation perpendicular to the leaf is approximately 2 W.

(b) Calculate an approximate value for the amount of solar energy received by the
leaf during 2.5 hours of sunlight.

Page 90 of 92
37 The graph shows how the intensity of light from a light-emitting diode (LED)
varies with distance from the LED.

(a) Use data from the graph to show that the intensity obeys an inverse square

(b) What does this suggest about the amount of light absorbed by the air?

Page 91 of 92
38 Radio waves and sound waves are sometimes confused by the general public.
(a) Complete the table to give three ways in which they differ.

Radio waves Sound waves

(b) It is proposed to place a solar power station in orbit around the Earth. The
solar power station will convert sunlight to microwave energy. Microwave
collectors on Earth will convert the microwaves into electricity.

(c) The solar power station orbits the Earth at a constant distance from the
surface of 36000 km. The total area of the collectors is equivalent to a
rectangle with dimensions of 120m by 250m. The collectors are used to
generate 600 kW of power. Calculate the intensity of the microwaves at the
collectors. State any assumption that you make.

(d) Calculate the total power which the orbiting station would have to emit if it
transmitted microwaves equally in all directions. State any assumption that
you make.

(e) Suggest a more efficient method of transmitting the microwave energy to the
collectors on Earth.

Page 92 of 92