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Investigation into the factors affecting the resistance of a metal wire.

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Physic Coursework

Investigation into the factors affecting the resistance of a metal wire


Resistance is a measure of how hard it is to get a current flowing through a component at a particular voltage. It is measured in Ohms (Ω).

To find out the resistance, we need to know the voltage and current of a circuit. Then we can use this formula to calculate the resistance:

Resistance = Voltage (V)

                    Current (A)

Preliminary work

Factors affecting Resistance:

  • Material

Different materials are different conductors of electricity. Some are better conductors than others e.g. silver and copper are better than plastic or wood. The first requirement of conduction is a supply of charge carriers called electrons, which can move in the metal.

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  • Thickness

The thicker the wire, the less resistance it has. This is because there is more space for the electrons to pass through. The thinner the wire, the more resistance it has as more electrons will want to pass through, which would result in a slower pace.

  • Length

The longer the piece of wire, the more resistance it will have. This is because there are more free electrons to carry charge; therefore the flow would be taking longer and slower. It could be likened to roadworks; e.g. traffic would travel slower if 3 lanes were diverted into 1 lane.

  • Temperature

Hot wire has more energy in their electrons, which makes them vibrate. These vibrations hinder the flow of electrons. This is because as they vibrate, they block and obstruct other free flowing electrons and get in the way. The higher the temperature, the greater the resistance.

Which of these variables is the best variable to measure in this


Length is the best variable because this variable is the easiest to measure compared with measuring temperature, area or material.

Length of wire to use:

1 metre of metal wire should be used because this is the same distance of an average arms length.

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I thought the investigation was fairly straightforward and easy to carry out. It was important to measure exactly the right length when adjusting the crocodile clips onto the resistance wire. This proved slightly difficult as the wire often had kinks and curls in it so it was difficult to straighten completely. We overcame this by pulling the wire really tight. It was also important to switch the power supply off as soon as you have your reading, otherwise the wire would get hot, melt and produce a smell. The first test we carried out, we failed to consider this and therefore had a smouldering wire. We soon learnt to turn our power supply off immediately and had no problems from then on.

We did the experiment thrice to ensure accurate results. It might have been more reliable to do the experiment 4 or more times to produce even more reliable data. Nonetheless, the results look accurate and correspond with each other and show a trend. The repeat readings were almost identical to the first ones. The averaged results were all close to the line of best fit on the graph; there were no anomalous results.

Overall, I feel that the evidence I have produced is sufficient to support a firm conclusion.


Invetigation into the factors affecting the resistance of a metal wire

Steven Anderson

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