• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14

Investigate one or more factors affecting the resistance of metal wires

Extracts from this document...


Aim: To investigate one or more factors that affects the resistance of metal wires


Resistance is the force that opposes the flow of charge i.e. an electrical current around a circuit. This means that energy is required to push the charged particles around the circuit. Resistance involves collisions between the electrons in the wire and the atoms (strictly speaking ions) that make up the structure of the conductor. As we have already encountered, the higher the resistance, the lower the current. If there is a high resistance, to get the same current, a higher voltage will be needed to provide an extra push for the electricity to flow.

Resistance is measured in units called Ohms, symbol Ω. A conductor has a resistance of one ohm (1.0 Ω) if there is a current of one ampere (1.0A) through it when the voltage (potential difference) across it is one volt (1.0V). In order to calculate the resistance, you must know the voltage and the current.

Mechanism of conduction of electricity in metals

Metals are made up of a lattice of ions (charged particles). The structure of metals is such that each of its atoms (on average) has one outer electron, which is not needed for bonding, and which does not need to remain restricted on its atom leaving a positive ion. As these “free” electrons “drift” through the crystal lattice, when a potential difference is applied, they collide with the positive ions of the lattice. These collisions slow down the flow of electrons (electric current). During the collision, the kinetic energy, which an electron has gained due to acceleration, is transferred to the ion with which it has collided. This transfer on collision is the cause of resistance. In turn, the crystal lattice gains kinetic energy, which produces a rise in temperature of the conductor.  

...read more.


There are two ways in which we could measure the resistance of a wire. The first one is to use an ohmmeter. Ohmmeters are useful in the sense that they provide a quick and direct readout. However, I have discovered that it would be more accurate for me to work out the resistance of the wire using the formula: image04.png

   Resistance = Voltage/Current or R=V/I

since you do not have to worry about the resistance of the connecting wires.

In order to be able to find the resistance using this formula, I must measure the potential difference across the wire being investigated (in Volts) and the current through the wire (in Amps).

Number of measurements

Resistance and Length

The length of the Constantan wire between the crocodile clips will be varied from 10 cm to 100 cm and I will take ammeter readings in 10 cm intervals i.e. 10 cm, 20 cm, 30 cm etc. This will give a total of 10 pairs of values (since I will repeat the whole experiment once), which is a good range or results and an adequate number of measurements to allow me to draw the predicted straight-line graph.    

Resistance and Area

In order to investigate the cross-sectional area, I had decided that I would take ammeter readings at 10cm intervals of a length of 1m wire. I would investigate the effect of cross-sectional area by comparing the different thicknesses of the wires at particular lengths.

I would work out the cross-sectional area of the wire (in m²) using the formula:

A = π x (radius) ²

    =  π x (diameter/2) ²

or, in m², A = πd² /4image05.png


  1. The circuit was set up as in the diagram above.
  2. I marked out the length of the wire between 10cm and 100cm in steps of 10cm, i.e. 10cm, 20cm etc on the wooden board using a meter ruler.
...read more.


I could have done more tests around any anomalous points that I found to ensure the accuracy of my experiment. I should have done my experiments at 1.5V as well as 3V and 4.5V because I assume that the results at 1.5V will be much more accurate since a lower current would be applied. Where a lower current is applied, you need to measure to 3 decimal places – it is therefore necessary to use an ammeter.  I would add a fixed resistance in the circuit as well as the length of the wire, which would ensure that my readings are accurate.  

One suggestion made from a source of reference to improve the experiment would be to place the wire in a water bath to let the heat flow out and keep the temperature constant (i.e. the temperature of the wire would have been the same as the water bath). I would not do this because it is dangerous to allow electricity to come in contact with water.  

Future experiments

  • To improve upon the results that I have already made, the next stage in this experiment would be to measure the potential difference across the wire rather than have relayed on the battery pack maintaining a fixed voltage as the current changed.
  • I would use different types of resistance wire (e.g. manganin) to compare them to constantan – if I were to do this, it would be very important to keep the temperature constant for example by using a variable resistor.
  • I would take more readings for different diameters of wire at the same length and at a constant voltage supply. This would then allow me to plot a graph and come to an accurate conclusion.  

In the future, I would also like to compare my figure of length with the theoretical resistivity of constantan to validate my readings. Through research, I have come to know that the resistivity of Constantan is: 5.0 x 10-7 Ohmic metres.  

...read more.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Electricity and Magnetism section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Electricity and Magnetism essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Investigating how the length of wire affects its resistance

    3 star(s)

    My shortest length chosen for the wire at 5cm showed a result of 0.56 ohms. The longest length chosen for the wire at 50cm showed a result of 7.08ohms. As the points on my graph shows a strong, positive, correlation, I can ensure that the theory of wire length and resistance being directly proportional is true.

  2. Peer reviewed

    Investigation in resistance in wires

    5 star(s)

    1.14 10 8 1.22 8 0 0.00 8 1 0.51 8 2 0.66 8 3 0.77 8 4 0.91 8 5 0.99 8 6 1.09 8 7 1.19 8 8 1.24 Graph Interpretation By looking at the graph you can see that Voltage and Current are proportional.

  1. Physics GCSE Coursework:Factors affecting the resistance of a wire

    for the current to flow down, therefore the energy is twice as spread out, so resistance might halve. Therefore, Resistance= 1/Area. This can be explained using the formula R = V/I Where there is 2 x the current, and the voltage is the same, R will halve.

  2. Investigating how the resistance of Nichrome wire depends on its length

    I will then be taking three repeats for each length for the voltage for each length. Firstly collect and set up the above apparatus as shown in the diagram: Start off the experiment by setting the crocodile clips apart by the start length.

  1. Free essay

    Resistance in a wire

    An example of this is the resistance at 10cm which is 1.3 Ohms where as the following measured length of 20cm has 2.26 Ohms which is an increase however demonstrates an un-proportional increases as energy loss occurs, this is as the resistance of a wire, under constant temperature conditions, is directly proportional to length.

  2. An in Investigation into the Resistance of a Wire.

    wire, the electrons have to squeeze together or collide with the other metal ions for longer. To be able to pass through the wire than they do in order to pass a short wire. So the longer the wire, the greater the resistance is.

  1. Resistance of a Wire Investigation

    false whereas a digital voltmeter does not rely on a needle or any other manual movements. The next modification I would make would be to use pointers instead of crocodile clips ; I would do this because pointers would be more accurate.

  2. The resistance of wire.

    The theory behind these conclusions are: As the length doubles the resistance doubles. Resistance is caused by electrons bumping into ions. If the length of the wire doubles, the electrons bump into the ions twice as much so the resistance will double.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work