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Experiment to find the acceleration due to gravity using free fall.

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Experiment to find the acceleration due to gravity using free fall

As the title suggests, this experiment is to find the acceleration any object under free fall will undergo when travelling towards the earth. We presume in this experiment that we are unaware of the constant g and the basis of this experiment is to rediscover this value.


The principle behind the circuit is fairly simple. The ball is held through magnetism to the electromagnet; however when the magnetic field is no longer being created i.e. the switch is opened, the ball falls.

When the switch is opened, the timer also starts as the switch is connected to one of its inputs. The ball strikes the metallic plate as it falls and breaks the contact between the metal plate and the rest of the circuit. The plate switch is also connected to the timer which then stops timing.

In this way the time taken for the ball to fall a certain height is measured and hence its acceleration. The height fallen by the ball is measured by moving the plate switch up and down a wooden pole and measuring through use of a tape measure the distance between it and the bottom of the ball.

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Displacement (cm)




Average time(s)

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One improvement I would have like to make to the experiment concerned the metal plate switch. I realised that it took a certain amount of time to actually break the contact between the plate itself and the rest of the circuit which could affect the overall time recorded by the Digital voltmeter.

I believe it would be more efficient for a light sensor and a laser to replace the plate switch so the ball could fall uninterrupted and the time recorded would be more accurate. This is due to the fact that breaking a light beam can occur almost instantaneously while a metal plate is more difficult to move.

If I had more time I would have liked to increase the distance over which the ball fell. This would not only provide a more accurate value for g but would also allow me to calculate the terminal velocity of a given mass.  

Ideally it would be interesting to see how the gravitational field of the earth varied in different locations, perhaps by obtaining data on the acceleration of the ball in various geographical locations. It would then be possible to see how g can vary due to the fact that the mass of the earth is not a constant all across the surface.


        Page         30/04/2007

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