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Muralidharan 1

Arjun Muralidharan

Mr. Acre

AP Calculus

27 February 2017

Solids of Revolutions

Calculus is often perceived as difficult, full of equations and formulas, and fancy symbols

that sometimes make no sense. However, there is a certain beauty with how the concepts of

calculus can interact with each other to create and branch off into a wondrous combination. One

concept that can achieve this mysticality is the integral. The integral can be used to compute

many complex problems in mathematics and virtual has no limit (except its lower and upper

bound ;} ).

Calculus can be used to find the area under any curve. The area beneath a curve and the

x-axis between a lower and an upper bound is known as the definite integral. The definite

integral of a function, f(x), from x = a to x = b is the product of the independent variable, b-a,

and the dependent variable, the values of f(x). The proper calculus notation for the definite

integral is:

f (x) dx

The a and b refer to as the limits of integration, where a is the lower limit and b

is the upper limit; these give the range of x-coordinates in which the function will be integrated.

F(x) is the continuous function that will be integrated, while dx is the change in x.
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Figure 1. Definite Integral

Figure 1 shows a visual representation of the definite integral and each of the four values

used to calculate the integral. To find the area using calculus, the region between the curve and

the x-axis is sliced into an infinite amount of vertical strips. These vertical strips are in the form

of rectangles whose base is the change in x, dx, and height is the function, f(x). The area of

these strips are calculated and then summed together to find the total area underneath the curve.

In the figure above, the limits of integration is between two to six, and the definite integral can

be written as:
A = x dx

Additionally to finding the area under a curve, calculus can be used to find the area

between two curves or functions! To calculate this, the area under one of the curves can be

subtracted from the area underneath the second curve. The definite integral between these two

curves can be denoted as:

b b
A = f (x) dx g (x) dx
a a
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Since the limits of integrations and dx are tantamount, this integral can be further

simplified into:
A = [f (x) g (x)] dx

The dx represents the width of a rectangle, while the height of the infinite number of

thin rectangles now becomes the difference between the two functions, f(x) and g(x). When

finding the area between two curves, it is also critical to note that it is always the bottom curve or

function being subtracted from the top curve or function.

Figure 2. Area between Two Curves or Functions

Figure 2 shows how the area between the two curves is conceptualized. The limits of

integration are the x-coordinates of the intersection points of the two curves with the lower

bound of 0 and the upper bound of 1. The height of the rectangles, which is the difference in the
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y-coordinates from f(x) and g(x), is shown, and the base of the rectangles remain the change in x,

dx. In Figure 2 above, the definite integral between the two curves can be written as:
A = (x x) dx
The function, y=x, comes first in the integral because it is the function on top (its

y-values are greater than those of y=x between the intersection points).

Moreover, the definite integral can be utilized to find the volume of revolved curves.

These revolved curves can form incredible, unique shapes whose volume can be calculated. The

three most common methods to finding the volume of revolved solids are the disks, rings, and

shells method.

The first method is the disk method. To find the area between a curve and the x-axis,

rectangles are used with the width of dx; however, when the curve is revolved, the rectangles are

also revolved around an axis of rotation which creates thin disk cylinders! The radius of one of

the disk is equal to the function, f(x), while the width is equal to dx. The volume of a cylindrical

prism is r2h, so the volume of one of these disks is equal to f (x) dx .

Figure 3. Curve Rotated Around X-Axis (Disk Method)

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Figure 3 shows how the disk method works with curves revolved around the x-axis. As

illustrated, when the dx cut is revolved around the x-axis it forms a cylindrical disk whose radius

is that of the function, f(x). By finding the volume of the infinite number of these thin disks, the

volume of the revolved curve can be found.

The definite integral for the disk method is as follows:

V = [f (x)]2 dx
When using the disk method, the radius of each circular cross section is the y-value of the

curve, f(x), and the height of each cylinder would be its thickness, dx, along the x-axis. Since the

dx cuts, or thickness, runs along the x-axis, the cross sections are perpendicular to the axis of


The second method to finding the volume of a revolved curve is the ring method, also

known as the washer method. The ring method is used when the volume of a revolved shape is

not solid throughout. Since here is a gap in the middle of the solid, that means center volume

must be subtracted from the total. The ring method includes two curves being revolved, so two

radii are needed.

Figure 4. Two Curves Rotated Around X-Axis (Ring/Washer Method)

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Figure 4 illustrates how the ring method is applied. The concept behind the ring method

can be simply explained by subtracting the small radius disk from the large radius disk, and a

way to achieve this is to create an infinite amount of rings and then summing their volumes

(similar to the disk method). These rings have two radii, a big and small radius. The big radius is

the function that is on top, while the small radius is the one underneath. The volume of one such

ring is equal to * (R2 r2 ) * dx .

Therefore, in integral notation, the volume of the revolved shape using the ring method is

as follows:
V = R 2 h r 2 h

R refers to the larger radius, while r refers to the smaller radius, and the h is the

small cut that is perpendicular to the axis of rotation. This integral can be further simplified

because of similar constants to:

V = (R2 r2 ) dx

The next method for finding the volume of a revolved solid is the shell method. The shell

method, instead of using cuts perpendicular to the axis of rotation, uses cuts that are parallel. The

shell method takes these thin rectangular cuts and rotates them around the vertical axis to create a

cylindrical shell with an infinitely small thickness. The volume of one such shell is equal to 2r

(circumference of the original cylinder) * height (value of the function, x or y) * thickness (dx or

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Figure 5. Cylindrical Shell (Shell Method)

Figure 5 illustrates how the volume of a revolved object can be found using the shell

method. The long rectangular strips are revolved around the vertical axis to hollow cylinders that

are infinitely summed together.

Therefore, the definite integral of shell method is as follows:

V = 2 * radius * height * thickness
The radius, height, and thickness all depend on the axis of rotation. If the axis of rotation

is vertical, the radius becomes x, the thickness becomes dx, and the height is the function in

terms of x. However, if the axis of rotation is horizontal, the radius becomes y, the thickness

becomes dy, and the height is the function in terms of y.

b b
V = 2 x * f (x) * dx or V = 2 y * f (y) * dy
a a

It is integral to have all the pieces of the integrand be in terms of the same variable.

The disk, ring, and shell methods are not the only ways to find the volume of solids with

calculus, there is another one: the cross section method or slab method. The cross section method

inscribes shapes, such as squares, triangles, semicircles, with infinitely small thickness

perpendicular to the x-axis into the function/curve. These shapes are summed together using an

intergral to find the volume of the solid.

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The setup of the integral for the cross section method is general because the area equation

in the integral is based on what shape is being inscribed. In general, the volume of a solid by

cross sections is:

V = Ashape dx

A and b once again refer to the boundaries of the area. The area of shape is the area

of the cross section shape (rectangle: w, triangle: bh, semicircles: ), while dx (or dy) is the


Calculus can provide solutions to even the most difficult mathematical problems. The

integral is most commonly used in finding the area under a curve or between two curves, but its

value reaches far beyond the classroom. Using definite integrals, calculus helps to find areas

under curves/functions, areas between two curves, volumes of revolved solids, and volumes of

solids with geometric shapes.

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Sample Problems
Let f(x) = x and g(x) = 3
. R is the region in Quadrant I bounded by the graphs of f(x) and


A. Find the area of R

Figure 6. Shaded Area Depicting R

R is between two curves/functions, x and 3
, so an integral that finds the difference between the

curves is needed. In Rs domain, f(x) is always above g(x), so g(x) is subtracted from f(x) to find

the height.
A = f (x) g (x) dx

The two graphs intersect at x = 0 and x = 9, so the lower limit of integration would be 0 and the

upper would be 9. x is substituted in for f(x), while 3x is substituted in for g(x).

A = x x

A = 4.5 un2

B. Find the volume of the solid generated when R is rotated about the horizontal line y = -2
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Figure 7. Revolved Area of R

When the two graphs are revolved, the solid formed will have a hollow center, so the ring/washer

method is needed.
V = (R2 r2 ) dx

The axis of rotation is a horizontal line that is parallel to the x-axis, so the limits of integration

remain the same. The larger radius would be f(x) = x as it is above g(x) = 3x .

V = ([(x) ( 3x )2 ] dx

Since the axis of rotation is 2 units less than the x-axis, 2 needs to be added to both radii.
V = ([(x + 2) ( 3x + 2)2 ] dx

V = 31.5 98.96 un3

C. The region R is the base of a solid. For this solid, cross sections perpendicular to the x-axis

are isosceles right triangles with one leg on the base. Find the volume of this solid.
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Figure 9. Isosceles Right Triangle Slabs of Solid R

The general integral for a cross section method includes the area of the shape inscribed and the

V = Ashape dx

The area of a triangle is bh. The slabs are perpendicular to the x-axis (dx), so the limits of

integration are from x = 0 to x = 9 once again.

V = 12 bh dx

Isosceles right triangles have equal b and h, so only the value of the base is needed and that

equals to [f(x) - g(x)]. Substitute in equations for f(x) and g(x).

V = 12 [x 3x ] dx

V = 1.35 un3

Works Cited

"Disk Method." 6.2 Volumes of Revolution - Disk Method. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
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"Function Revolution." Interactivate: Function Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.


"Shell Method." 6.2 Volumes of Revolution - Shell Method. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.


"Washer Method." 6.2 Volumes of Revolution - Washer Method. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.


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