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Physics Factsheet Number 83

Experiments- Hooke's Law and Young Modulus

Factsheet 27 went through the elasticity theory required at A-level (and probably further) in some detail. In this Factsheet we will look at some of the experimental work linked to the topic. We will concentrate on how best to make the practical work produce accurate and reliable data, and the graphical work and calculations resulting. Hookes Law provides information on the properties of a specific device (spring, length of wire, etc). The Young modulus gives us a value for a material (steel, copper, glass, etc). Hookes Law refers to a specific device; the Young modulus refers to a material. Hookes Law (revision): F P Practical Hints: 1. Use only small masses. This gives you more data points. It also makes it less likely you will exceed the limit of proportionality. 2. Repeat readings with decreasing masses to ensure there is no hysteresis effect. 3. Some springs are manufactured with the coils forced so tightly together that it takes a significant force to begin separating them. This may affect the starting point of the graph. Use only the straight-line section to find the gradient. Example: A student performs an experiment to find the spring constant of a steel spring, obtaining these results: Mass / g 0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 30.0 Find the spring constant. Solution: Rewrite the table: Weight/10-3N 0 49 98 147 196 245 294 F/10-3N This is a standard practical going back to GCSE level. A series of masses are carefully added to the mass holder, and measurements of extension and weight are recorded in a table. Ave. extension / 10-3 m 0 1 5 8 13 18 21 Ave. extension / 10-3 cm 0.0 0.1 0.5 0.8 1.3 1.8 2.1

0 e In the proportional region, between O and P (the limit of proportionality): F = ke where F is the applied force (N) e is the extension (m) k is the spring constant (Nm-1)

Practical Hint: Throughout these practicals, always do repeats and averages where possible, and take care with significant figures and units.

Finding the spring constant, k, of a steel spring.

300 250 200 150 100

The results are then graphed: F The spring constant, k, is the gradient (from k = F / e). e

50 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 e/10-3m k = gradient = (200 10-3 ) / ( 17 10-3 ) = 12 Nm-1 Notice the care that must be taken with the units, and that the best straight line should not be started from the origin in this situation.

83. Experiments- Hooke's Law and Young Modulus

Physics Factsheet

Combinations of Springs
Experimental work is often performed to verify the rules for combining springs in series and parallel. Series Parallel W T= 2

Practical Hints: Use small extensions for the spring (small masses) to ensure that you are operating in the Hookes Law region. However remember using very small extensions will increase the percentage error in the measurement. Use small amplitude oscillations to stay within the Hookes Law region, and also to reduce the likelihood of the spring entering swinging mode (acting like a pendulum).


W T= 2


Example: With the previous set-up, the student sets the mass on the steel spring into vertical oscillation. The time for 10 oscillations is measured (and repeated and averaged) for each mass. Table of results: W W Mass / g 50 100 150 200 250 Ave. time for 10 osc. / s Extension, e / cm 3.8 5.4 6.7 7.7 8.6 3.7 7.3 11.1 14.9 18.5

Practical Hints: In the series combination, different springs can be used, but be prepared to add the inverse spring constants: 1/k = 1/k1 + 1/k2 The most common error is forgetting to invert 1/k to find k at the end of the calculation. In the parallel combination, always use identical springs. Otherwise one will extend further than the other, causing the lower support rod to tip.

Find the value of g from the results. Solution: Period2, T2 / s2 0.144 0.292 0.444 0.596 0.740 T 2/s 2 0.80 Extension, e / m 0.037 0.073 0.111 0.144 0.185

Finding g from SHM with an oscillating steel spring:


Hookes Law can be used in simple harmonic motion where the period of the mass, m, oscillating vertically from a spring depends on the spring constant. T = 2 (m/k) Using k = F mg = e e






We find T = 2 (e/g) Using a range of masses, we record extension e and period of oscillation T. The gradient works out to be 4.0 s2m-1. 42 / g = 4.0 g = 9.87 ms-2.


Practical Hints: Dynamic measurements (e.g. timing oscillations) are more difficult than static measurements (e.g. measuring extension). It is essential to repeat and average, and to measure ten or twenty oscillations, not just one. e/m The gradient of the graph will be 42/g.

83. Experiments- Hooke's Law and Young Modulus

Physics Factsheet

The Young modulus (revision): As mentioned, the Young modulus is a property of a material. Instead of applied force, we use tensile stress (the force applied per unit crosssectional area); instead of extension, we use tensile strain (the fractional increase in length). Stress = F/A Strain = e/l (Nm-2) (no units) where l is the original length.

A graph of results will resemble this example: F/N

Young modulus, E = stress/strain = (F/A) / (e/l) Or we can write: E = (Fl) / (Ae) (Nm-2) E = (Fl) / (Ae)


So the experimental value for E will be found from: E = gradient (l/A) The Young modulus is a measure of the stiffness of a material It may be useful to emphasise the size of the effect we may see experimentally with an example. Example: Mild steel has a Young modulus E = 20 1010 Nm-2. A steel wire of length 1.00m has a cross-sectional area of 1.0mm2. Find the extension if a force of 100N is applied to the wire. Solution: E = (Fl) / (Ae) = (1001.0) / (1.010-6 201010) = 5.010-4m = 0.50mm. The point of this example is to illustrate the tiny extension expected in Young modulus investigations. contol wire Test wire Exam Hint: Be prepared to discuss the ways in which the extension of the wire is maximised, and the steps taken to improve accuracy. Also be ready to discuss why accuracy is more difficult to achieve in finding the Young modulus than the spring constant.

1. (a) State the key difference between the spring constant and the Young modulus. (b) Why is the spring constant generally easier to determine experimentally? 2. Using weights from 0 to 10N, a steel spring exhibits extensions increasing linearly from 0 to 20cm. (a) Find the spring constant. (b) Find the extension for a load of 25N. (Can you be certain of this?) 3. Here is a set of results for an experiment with a length of metallic wire (original length, l = 1.5m ; diameter = 2.0mm). Tension, T / N 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Extension, e / mm 0.00 0.19 0.42 0.60 0.83 0.99 1.24

spirit level


straightening mass

test masses

This set-up, combined with careful experimentation, should maximise the accuracy of the final result. Notice these points they are important: 1. A micrometer is used to measure the diameter in several places on both wires. 2. The control wire compensates for changes in temperature or sagging of the support frame. 3. Small loads are introduced onto both wires to make sure they are straight before measurements are taken. 4. The spirit level and micrometer allow very small changes to be measured. 5. Readings on both loading and unloading are taken for accuracy, and to check for any hysteresis effect. 6. A best-straight line graph is used for increased accuracy. Safety point: To maximise the extension obtained, a long and very thin wire is put under considerable tension. Goggles must be worn in case the wire snaps.

(a) Graph these results (with T on the y-axis). (b) Find the gradient (in Nm-1). (c) Find the cross-sectional area (in m2). (d) Calculate the Young modulus for this metal. 4. A 1.0m length of wire is stretched by 0.5mm. This causes a decrease in the cross-sectional area. (a) Estimate the % change in the stress due to this area change. (b) Is this large enough to be noticeable in the results? Answers: 1. (a) Spring constant property of device Young modulus property of material. (b) Much larger extension when dealing with springs, etc. Easier to measure extension accurately. 2. (a) k = F/e = 50Nm-1 (b) 50cm (but only if the limit of proportionality is not exceeded) 3. (b) Gradient approximately 4.9 105Nm-1. (c) 3.14 10-6m2 (d) E = gradient (l/A) = 23 x 1010Nm-2 4. (a) stress = F/A, volume = Al % change in stress of same magnitude as that in area. And % change in area of same magnitude as that in length. % change = 0.05% (b) This is too small to be noticed.
Acknowledgements: This Physics Factsheet was researched and written by Paul Freeman The Curriculum Press,Bank House, 105 King Street,Wellington, Shropshire, TF1 1NU