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Experiment 3

Gyroscope
Apparatus:
Gyroscope, light barrier with counter, barrel base, power supply 5 V DC/2.4 A, Digital stop-
watch, support rod with clamp, thread, Slotted weight and hook, meter scale.
Purpose of experiment:
(1) To determine the moment of inertia of the gyroscope disc by measuring the angular accel-
eration of the disc.
(2) To determine the moment of inertia of the gyroscope disc by measuring the spin and pre-
cession frequencies of the gyroscope.
Basic methodology:
(1) Torque is applied to the gyroscope disc by a falling weight and the resultant spin frequency
is measured.
(2) Torque is applied to the gyroscope disc by hanging a weight at the long end and the presession
frequency is measured as a function of the spin frequency.
Gyro disc
support stand
Light barrier with
counter
notch for
hanging weight
axle rod
counterweight
Figure 1: The gyroscope
I Theory
The gyroscope consists of a uniform heavy disk which is free to spin about its axes and which is
pivotted in a frictionless manner such that the axle can assume any orientation. It is a striking
illustration of the principles of rigid body rotation and of angular momentum conservation. The
gyroscope eect nds applications in many areas such as motion stabilization and navigation.
We rst attempt to measure the moment of intertia of the gyroscope disk. The gyro. axle is
1
2 PHYSICS LABORATORY MANUAL
xed in the horizontal plane and the disc is made to spin by a falling weight. The weight is tied
to a string which is wound around the thread drum, so that as it falls, the gyro. rotates. The
weight does not fall freely but with an acceleration a < g. As a result, tension T = m(g a) is
applied o center to the gyro disc. This causes a torque which rotates the disc.
T = m(g a)
m
h
2r
Figure 2: Setup for measuring moment of
inertia
The relationship between the applied torque ,
angular acceleration and the moment of inertia
about the spin axes I is,
= I. (1)
where the torque is given by = Tr = m(g a)r,
The acceleration a of the falling mass m is re-
lated to the angular acceleration of the disc by
= a/r. The acceleration a can be found from
the height h from which the weight is released and
the time t
F
of the fall, by the relation a =
2h
t
2
F
. Sub-
stituting for , and a in the rst equation gives,
t
2
F
=
2h(I + mr
2
)
mgr
2
(2)
Thus the plot of t
2
F
vs. h is a straight line. From the slope of this straight line one can nd the
moment of inertia I.
Precession of the Gyroscope: If the axle of the spinning gyroscope is not held xed,
and a torque acts on the axle, then the axis rotates in a direction perpendicular to the force
causing the torque. This is known as precession. If the gyroscope is initially spinning about a
xed axes in space with angular velocity
R
, the angular momentum is L = I
R
. Now a mass
m
1
is added at the far end of the gyroscope at distance d from the pivot point, resulting in an
applied torque, = m
1
gd.
As the applied torque is normal to the direction of the spin angular momentum

L, it causes

L to rotate. If

L rotates by angle d in time dt then the corresponding change in angular
momentum is dL = Ld. Since the applied torque causes the change in angular momentum
according to
dL
dt
= L
d
dt
= L
p
= = m
1
gd, (3)
where
p
is the precession frequency. For spin time period t
R
and precession time period t
p
, we
have
p
= 2/t
p
and
R
= 2/t
R
. Substituting for
p
,
R
and L in the equation for dL/dt we
get,
1
t
R
=
m
1
gdt
p
4
2
I
. (4)
Thus 1/t
R
and t
p
are linearly related. From the slope of this line the moment of inertia I can
be calculated.
Experiment 3. Gyroscope 3
II Set-up and Procedure
Part A:
1. Fix the axle of the gyro. in the horizontal direction with the help of the support rod and
clamp as shown in the gure 2.
2. Position the gyro. so that the thread drum projects over the edge of the table.
3. Pass the loop of the thread over the pin on the thread drum and wind the thread around
the drum. At the other end of the thread hang the given weight. Measure the height h of
the weight above the oor.
4. Release the weight and measure its time of fall a stopwatch. Start the stopwatch as soon
as you release the disc.
5. Repeat for various initial heights.
Part B:
Figure 3: The gyroscope
1. Start with a gyro. that is free to rotate about all its axes (i.e, remove the support rod).
Stick a small paper strip on the rotating disk in such a way that about 24 cm of the strip
projects outside the edge.
2. On the forked light barrier, set the counter to the third switch, which measures the time
between two consecutive obstructions in the light path.
3. Balance the gyro. horizontally and spin the disk by pulling on a thread wound around
the thread drum. You will need to hold on the axle rod to keep the axis horizontal while
4 PHYSICS LABORATORY MANUAL
4. Measure the initial rotation time period t
R
1
by holding the light barrier in your hand and
allowing the paper strip to pass through it twice.
5. Immediately after t
R
1
measurement, gently hang a weight m
1
in the slot at the other end
of the axle rod. The gyro. will start precessing. (It may wobble a bit initially. This is
called nutation. To reduce this, try to give the disc a large spin and use a small weight
m
1
.)
6. Measure the time to complete half a precession and calculate the precession time period
t
p
by doubling it.
7. Immediately after t
p
measurement, gently remove m
1
and measure the nal time period
of rotation t
R
2
, using the forked barrier as before. Note down the average of t
R
1
and t
R
2
,
measured before and after precession.
8. Repeat with dierent initial rotation frequencies.
III Exercises and Viva Questions
1. What are the directions of

L and at various stages of the experiment?
2. If a clamp is not used in the rst part what will happen?
3. What is the advantage of measuring t
p
p
in part 2?
4. Why does the gyroscope not topple when an additional weight causes a force to act on its
axis?
5. What happens to the precession frequency if the weight hung on the axle is doubled?
What if the weight is halved?
6. If the direction of spin of the gyroscope is reversed, what happens to the precession?
7. Suppose the Gyroscope is spinning with its axle at an angle to the horizontal and is
caused to precess. What will be its precession frequency compared to that when it is spin-
ning with the same angular frequency but with horizontal axis? Try it out experimentally!
8. Theoretically derive the formula for precession frequency if a weight w is hung from a
gyroscope spinning with frequency
s
with its axis making an angle with the horizontal.
References:
1. Mechanics, by Kleppner and Kolenkow , Tata McGraw-Hill (Indian ed.2007).
2. PHYWE Physics experiments manual.