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Forced oscillations

Praveen Xavier

School of Physics and Astronomy

The University of Manchester

First Year Laboratory Report

February 2014

This experiment was performed in collaboration with Viktor G.Matyas


A series of measurements were made concerning the response of a phosphor-bronze bar

clamped at one end as it was subject to, i) a driving force by means of a mechanical oscillator
coupled with a sine generator , ii) no driving force, iii) damping by means of an
electromagnet, iv) no damping. The data was used to determine the resonant frequency and
the Q values of the bar. Discussions about phase difference are also made. The resonance of
the bar was measured to be 13.4100.005 Hz. The Q values are 502 and 1495 for the
damped and un-damped systems respectively.

1. Introduction

A system bound by a potential, when slightly displaced from the minimum of potential, tends
to oscillate with Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM). SHM also occurs due to a sinusoidal
driving force.

An interesting property of such systems called resonance manifests as the driving force closes
to the natural frequency of the system. The result is the amplitude of vibration becomes very

Resonance can be harnessed. In electrical circuits, the alternating voltage when close to the
resonance of the circuit reduces the resistance within the circuit, reducing loss of energy.

Resonance has also been destructive: in April 1831, the march of a group of soldiers on
Broughton suspension bridge over the river Irwell drove the bride to vibrate at close to its
natural frequency, causing the bridge to break.

2. Theory

SHM will occur when a restoring force has the form kx , where x is the displacement
from the point of minimum potential energy and k is a property of the system.

Writing Newtons second law for the evolution with time of such a system with mass m :

d x
m 2
=kx .(1)

The general solution to such an equation is:

x= Acos (k
m )
t+ .(2)

Where A is an arbitrary constant, and is determined by the initial conditions of the


The function above repeats itself every 2 , so the time corresponding to this must be the

period of oscillation T :

T= ,(3)


.( 4)

2.1 When a force damping the oscillation is introduced, it takes the form dt .

Rewriting Newtons second law for the new system, and its solution [1] :

d2 x dx
m 2
=kxb (5)
dt dt

x= A e
(b2 t )cos
( ( ) )

m 2
b 2
t+ (6)

Fcos ( d + )
2.2 When oscillations are being driven with a periodic force of form, [2]

Newtons second law yields:

d2 x dx
m 2 =kxb + Fcos ( d + ) (7)
dt dt

Solving for x ,

( ( ) )
t k b 2
x= A e cos t+ + Bcos ( d + ) (8)
m 2

F /m
B= (9)
( ) +( 4 b )
2 2 2
d d

2.4 Quality Factor

The quality factor Q quantifies the lack of damping in a system:

Q= (10)


Q= (11)

=2 b(12)

2.5 Phase difference

Phase difference between the generating wave and the response wave is calculated by,
phase=2 f driver t(13)

Where t can be found by observing the difference in the two waves along the x -axis

on the oscilloscope.
3. Experimental method
The mechanical oscillator is connected to the bar by a rubber band. Figure 1 is a picture of
the set-up of the apparatus [3].The feedback of the bar was measured using a 20 turn coil that
is attached to the bar. As the bar vibrates, the coil oscillates in a fixed magnetic field
produced by a horseshoe magnet, inducing a current across the coils as stated by Faradays
law of induction. The induced current is proportional to the velocity of the bar. The induced
current is plotted as a function of time on the oscilloscope.

Damping in the experiment is produced by an electromagnet which induces eddies in the bar,
thus retarding it with force proportional to the velocity.

20 turn coil wire

bar magnet

Electromagnetic damper

Rubber band

Mechanical oscillator

Fig 1- Set-up of apparatus [3]

3.1 Free Vibrations

3.1.1 Un-damped

To establish a rough value of the resonant frequency, the bar was plucked and allowed to
vibrate freely. The reading on the oscilloscope was used to establish the natural frequency (

f 0 13.5 Hz .(14)

This was done so that we could vary the frequencies in the right range in the following

Having changed the settings on the oscilloscope, the bar was once again plucked. The
oscilloscope now records how the peak amplitude changes with time.

3.1.2 Damped

Retaining the same settings on the oscilloscope and turning damping to maximum, the bar
was once again plucked.

3.2 Forced oscillations

3.2.1 Un-damped

A sine wave generator was selected on the mechanical oscillator. Using the toggles, the bar
was driven at a range of frequencies from 12.8 Hz to 14 Hz in increments of 0.1 Hz and
0.01Hz close to the rough value of 13.5 Hz. The response amplitude was measured from the
oscilloscope in arbitrary units.

3.2.2 Damped

The same experimental method was carried out as in 3.2.1. The bar however was subject to
maximum damping.

4. Results

4.1 Forced oscillations

Fig 2- Amplitude vs Frequency for damped and un-damped cases

It can be seen that the amplitude increases up to a certain frequency, peaks, and then reduces
beyond this frequency. Identifying the peak, frequency was determined to be 13.410 0.005
Hz. This is the resonant frequency of the bar.

In the case of both un-damped and damped, the resonant frequency remains unchanged. The
behaviour of the amplitude does not change either.

4.2 Power absorption

4.2.1 Un-damped curves

Fig 3- Power absorption vs Frequency for un-damped motion

This is the power absorption curve for un-damped forced oscillations.

From this we find 2 , and so can find the Q factor of the bar:

f 1 =0.09 Hz (15)

Qundamped =149(16)

4.2.2 Damped curves

Below is the power absorption curve for damped forced oscillations.

Fig 3- Power absorption vs Frequency

From the graph,

f 1 =0.27 Hz(17)

Q damped =50(18)

4.3 Decay

4.3.1 Un-damped decay

Fig 4- Amplitude vs Time for un-damped motion

This is the graph for the decay of a free, un-damped oscillation.

The equation describing the evolution of amplitude with time can be derived from equation 6
A= A 0 e (19)

y =bx (20)


A0 t
y=ln (21)x= (22)
A 2

Fig 5- Plot of y vs x for un-damped

Using values obtained from figure x, a graph of y vs x can be plotted.

The gradient of this graph gives,


4.3.2 Damped decay

Above is the graph for the decay of a free, damped oscillation.

Fig 6-Amplitude vs time for damped motion

The same equations written in 4.3.1 apply with a different value for b .

Below is a graph of y vs x .

The gradient of this graph is,

b=1.50364(24 )


Fig 7-Plot of y vs x for damped

4.4 Phase difference

A graph of phase difference vs frequency is plotted below for both un-damped and damped

Fig 8- Plot of phase difference vs frequency for both damped and un-damped cases

5. Discussion

The reduced chi squared values are 0.3652 and 0.7885 for un-damped and damped
oscillations respectively.

The error on the value of the resonant frequency is given by the instrumental error
0.005 Hz.

6. Conclusion

The data in the experiment determined the Q values of the system to be 502 and 1495 for
un-damped and damped cases respectively.

The resonant frequency is calculated to be 13.4100.005 Hz

The exponential form of decay predicted by the theory for both damped and un-damped was
confirmed through the linear relationship between y & x as can be seen in figure 5 and

The relative values of b as can be seen from Figures 5 and 7 were also predicted by the
theory and confirmed through experiment.

The errors in this experiment werent large and so, the experimental data fit tightly with the
mathematics written or the system.


[1] Halliday, Resnick, Fundamentals of Physics, 2004

[2] Young, Freedman, University Physics, 2013
[3] Anon (date unknown) Forced Oscillations [Online] Available at:
%3D_27333_1%26content_id%3D_2293677_1%26framesetWrapped%3Dtrue [Accessed
[4] MATLAB, Version 5, The Math Works Inc, Natick, Mass 01760.
[5] Excel, Microsoft Corporation.
[6] Matlab Least Squares Fit, lsfr26.m available from Teachweb,