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Capacitor Lab

Victor Gardner

Purpose:
The purpose of this lab was to demonstrate the principal of capacitance: that when an
electric field is applied to two conductor separated by an insulator, charge is stored. For this lab,
instead of the typical parallel plate capacitor, a cylindrical capacitor was used. The capacitance of
the capacitor was measured by analyzing the voltage drop when the charged capacitor is
discharged.
Materials:

bottle
water
salt
nail
tin foil
wires
voltmeter
9V battery
10 MOhm resistor

Procedure:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

fill the bottle with water


pour salt into the bottle and seal the bottle
nail the nail into the top of the bottle, leaving about a centimeter of the nail still exposed
wrap the bottle in tin foil
charge the capacitor by connecting the 9V battery to the capacitor's tin foil and nail.
complete the circuit shown below in figure one, and record the discharge on the
voltmeter.
7. Complete steps 5-6 a total of three times.

Data:
Table 1: Trial 1

Trial 1
time
(s)
0
0.1
0.2

ln(V/Vo
)
0.000
2.967
6.250

Voltage
(V)
9.166
0.471
0.018
Table 2: Trial 2

Trial 2
time
(s)
0
0.1
0.2

ln(V/Vo
)
0.000
1.872
5.656

Voltage
(V)
9.161
1.409
0.032
Table 3: Trial 3

Trial 3
time
(s)
0
0.1
0.2

Voltage
(V)
9.166
0.139
0.023

ln(V/Vo
)
0.000
4.185
6.006

Trial 1
0.25
0.2

f(x) = 0.03x + 0
R = 1

0.15
time (s)

0.1
0.05
0
0.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 4.000 5.000 6.000 7.000
-ln(V/Vo)

Figure 2: Graph of Trial one

Trial 2
0.25
0.2
0.15
time (s)

f(x) = 0.03x + 0.01


R = 0.96

0.1
0.05
0
0.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 4.000 5.000 6.000
-ln(V/Vo)

Figure 3: Graph of Trial 2

Trial 3
0.25
0.2
0.15
time (s)

f(x) = 0.03x - 0.01


R = 0.95

0.1
0.05
0
0.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 4.000 5.000 6.000 7.000
-ln(V/Vo)

Figure 4: Graph of Trial 3

Example Calculation:
-ln(V/Vo) = -ln(0.139/9.166) = 4.185

Analysis:

According to hyperphysics, the equation for voltage drop from a discharging


capacitor is:
V = Voe^(-t/)

(eq. 1)

Where , the time decay constant (the time for voltage to drop to e^-1 percent of
Vo), is equal to:
= RC

(eq. 2)

Where R is resistance and C is capacitance.


In order to find the time decay constant, equation 1 was modified into a linear
equation as follows:
*(-ln(V/Vo)) = t

(eq. 3)

This equation, essentially in the form y = mx, was used to plot the data gathered
from the capacitor. The resultant slope was taken to be the time decay constant, and
capacitance was calculated from this constant using equation 2.
Capacitance
Tria
l
1

Tao
0.032
0.034
2
1
0.031
3
7
avg
stdev

Capacitance (F)
3.200E-09
3.410E-09
3.170E-09
3.260E-09
1.308E-10

Example Calculations:
= RC
C = /R = 0.032/10000000 = 3.200*10^-9
Average = (T1 + T2 + T3) / 3
=((0.032 + 0.0341 + 0.0317)*10^-9) / 3 = 3.260*10^-9
Error Analysis:

Because the dielectric constant of salt water (as used in this experiment) and
plastic (as used in this experiment) are unknown, the theoretical value for capacitance is
taken to be the average capacitance.
%Error
Theoreti Experime
Erro
cal
ntal
r
3.260E1.8
1
09 3.200E-09
4%
3.260E4.6
2
09 3.410E-09
0%
3.260E2.7
3
09 3.170E-09
6%

Tri
al

Example Calculation:
%Error = ((Theoretical - Experimental)/Theoretical)*100%
%Error = ((1.610*10^-7 - 1.580*10^-7) / 1.610*10^-7) *100% = 1.86%
This error was caused primarily by the measuring apparatus. The voltmeter used
measured voltage every tenth of a second. Moreover, it measured voltage as a rapid drop
in voltage was occurring, and this drop may have interfered with the accuracy of the
measurement. Were a voltmeter able to measure voltage every thousandth of a second
used, more accurate readings would have been obtained, limiting the error presented here
and making the lines shown above in the graphs more straight.