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# Ankur Srivastava 11B

## Aim: To find the velocity of sound using an air column.

Research Question:
What is the effect of the time taken for the sound waves emitted from the tuning fork to complete 1
oscillation on the height of the air column needed to achieve the maximum amplitude of this wave and
what is the velocity of sound measured as a result?

## Background and Hypothesis:

The cover sheet of this lab gives the speed of sound a value of 330 m/s. Therefore, the
theoretical value that can be expected to be inferred from this lab can be 330 m/s. To find this value the
relationship v = f x λ can be used. The theory of resonance can also be applied. Resonance is defined as
the tendency of a system to oscillate at its maximum amplitude. A tube open at one end achieves
resonance at ¼ of a wavelength. Using a glass tube with a vibrating tuning fork on top, the wavelength
can be found by finding the height of the air column when the maximum sound is produced. As the
frequency will already be known, the speed of sound can be calculated using this equation.
From the equation it can also be predicted that the higher the frequency, the lesser the height of
the air column as the speed of sound will always be constant (for our purposes). If we input the same
relationship into the independent and dependent variables, it can also be concluded that the higher the
value for the time taken to complete one oscillation, the higher the value for the length of the air column
as the time taken to complete one oscillation is equal to the inverse of the frequency.

Variables

Independent: The time taken taken for the sound waves emitted from the tuning fork to complete 1 oscillation.

Dependent: Height of the air column needed to achieve the maximum amplitude of the wave.

Controlled:
1. Frequency of the tuning fork
2. Wavelength of the sound wave
3. Level of water in the plastic barrel
4. Angle that the glass tube makes to the surface of the water.
5. Edge of the glass tube.
6. Distance of the vibrating tuning fork above the edge of the glass tube.
7. Altitude of the location.
8. Temperature inside the room
9. Pressure inside the room

Procedure
Apparatus required
• 1 x large plastic barrel
• 1 x glass tube
• 8-12 tuning forks with varying frequencies.
• Metre ruler (± 0.0005m)
• 30 centimetre ruler (±0.0005m)
• A rubber bob which will be used to strike the tuning forks

Safety Precautions
The tuning forks will be struck using the rubber bob so that they do not undergo damage.

Method
• Take a large plastic barrel and fill ¾ of it with water.
• Place a stand next to the large plastic barrel.
• Fasten the glass tube to the stand.
• Loosen the clamp holding the glass tube and let one person (number 1) hold it.
• The other (number 2) should strike the tuning fork and place it 1 cm above the edge of the glass
tube and listen closely.
• Number 1 should keep telling number 2 whether to raise or lower the glass tube in order to
achieve the loudest sound.
• When the loudest sound is achieved, number 2 should fasten the glass tube in place.
• A meter stick should be placed next to the plastic barrel. The meter stick should have flat edges
in order for it to be as perpendicular as possible.
• A 30 centimeter ruler should be used to find the height of the water from the surface of the table
by placing it along the straight lines along the meter stick in order for it to be perpendicular to
the meter stick.
• Use step 9 to find the height of the edge of the glass tube from the surface of the table.
• Repeat steps 1-10 until sufficient data points (8-12) are found.

## Additional notes for controlling variables:

1. Frequency of the tuning fork: This will be controlled as the frequency will already be given and
assumed to be accurate.
2. Wavelength of the sound wave: Sound travels at a constant speed at one location and therefore, the
wavelength will be kept constant.
3. Level of water in the plastic barrel: The level of water will depend on the height of the stand, the
height of the plastic barrel and the length of the glass tube. The water should be at a level which
does not hinder any data collection and for the ease of calculation should be kept constant.
4. Angle that the glass tube makes to the surface of the water: This should be as perpendicular as
possible, as the value for the height of the air column will be altered if the glass tube is slanted.
5. Edge of the glass tube: The edge of the glass tube should be straight and not protrude to remove any
edge effect.
6. Distance of the vibrating tuning fork above the edge of the glass tube: The vibrating tuning fork
should be kept close to the edge of the glass tube (around 1 centimetre), care should be taken to keep
the distance constant as the glass tube moves upwards and downwards.
7. Altitude of the location: Performing the experiment at the same location should remove this source
of error.
8. Temperature inside the room: The experiment should be done in one period so that the temperature
is as constant as possible. Windows should be kept closed.
9. Pressure inside the room: Again, the experiment should be done in one stretch and the windows
should be kept closed.

Data Collection
Table 1: Collection of raw data: The frequency of the tuning fork that was held over the air column and the
length of the air column for the maximum amplitude measured as a result.

## Height of the water level Height of the edge of the glass

Trial Frequency of the
above the surface of the tube above the surface of the
no. tuning forks (Hz)
table (m) (±0.005) table (m) (±0.005)
1 271.2 0.390 0.694
2 304.4 0.390 0.661
3 320.0 0.390 0.648
4 341.3 0.390 0.632
5 406.4 0.390 0.593
6 426.6 0.390 0.583
7 456.1 0.390 0.577
8 480.0 0.390 0.562
9 512.0 0.390 0.551

Note: The frequency values on the turning forks were taken as 100% accurate.

Data Processing

## Step 1: Deriving the independent and dependent variables.

1. Starting with the given equation v = f x λ (where v is the speed of the wave, f is the
frequency, λ is the wavelength).

2. Substituting f with 1/T and λ with 4h (where T is the time taken to complete one oscillation
and h is the height of the air column), we get

→ v = 4h/T
→T=4h/v

## Step 2: Calculating the independent and dependent variables.

Part 1: The dependent variable was the height of the air column in the glass. The following set of
calculations find the value of this height for each of the 9 data points.
Table 2: The values for the heights of the water level and the edge of the glass above the surface of the
table and using them to calculate the height of the glass tube

Trial no. Height of the water level above Height of the edge of the glass Height of the air column in the
the surface of the table (m) tube above the surface of the glass tube (m) (±0.01)
(±0.005) table (m) (±0.005)
1 0.390 0.694 0.304
2 0.390 0.661 0.271
3 0.390 0.648 0.258
4 0.390 0.632 0.242
5 0.390 0.593 0.203
6 0.390 0.583 0.193
7 0.390 0.577 0.187
8 0.390 0.562 0.172
9 0.390 0.551 0.161

## Sample Calculations for Table 2

Theory
In order to find the height of the air column of the glass tube, the height of the water level above the
surface of the table has to be subtracted from the height of the edge of the glass tube above the surface
of the table.

Therefore,

Height of air column of the glass tube = Height of edge of glass tube above the surface of the table –
Height of the water level above the surface of the table.

Calculation
Value
For trial 1, Height of air column = 0.694m – 0.390m
= 0.304m

Uncertainty
For adding or subtracting values with uncertainties, the uncertainties are simply added.
Therefore, uncertainty of final value is
= 0.005m + 0.005m
= ±0.01m
Final value
0.304m ±0.01

Part 2: In order to find the independent variable (the time taken for the sound wave to complete one
oscillation) the following calculations can be used.

## Since f(frequency) = 1/T,

The values for the independent variable can be found using the frequency values of the tuning
forks.

Table 3: Finding the time taken for the sound waves generating by the tuning fork to complete one
oscillation.

Trial no. Frequency values for the The time taken for these waves
tuning forks (Hz) to complete one oscillation (s)
1 271.2 0.003687
2 304.4 0.003285
3 320.0 0.003125
4 341.3 0.002930
5 406.4 0.002461
6 426.6 0.002344
7 456.1 0.002193
8 480.0 0.002083
9 512.0 0.001953

Note: The tuning forks did not have an uncertainty as they were assumed to be 100% accurate.

## Sample Calculations for Table 3

Theory
As we had seen in the theory section above, we need to find the inverse of the frequency value in order
to find the time taken for one oscillation.
Calculation
Using trial number 1 we get
=1/271.2
=0.003687s (4 significant figures)
Note: No uncertainty values could be calculated because the frequency values were assumed to be
perfect

## Step 3: Graphing this relationship

Referring back to step 1, the equation being used for calculating the speed of sound is
T=4h/v
The speed of sound can be calculated if T is plotted as the y axis, h as the x axis and then the gradient
will be found to be 4/v.

Table 4: The time taken for the sound waves to complete one oscillation and the corresponding heights
of the glass tube upon achieving the maximum amplitude.

Trial Height of the air column in The time taken for these waves
no. the glass tube (m) (±0.01) to complete one oscillation (s)
1 0.304 0.003687
2 0.271 0.003285
3 0.258 0.003125
4 0.242 0.002930
5 0.203 0.002461
6 0.193 0.002344
7 0.187 0.002193
8 0.172 0.002083
9 0.161 0.001953

Step 4: Finding the value for the speed of sound using the lines of best, maximum and minimum fit.

## • Line of best fit:

= (0.002924-0)/(0.24516-0)
= 0.0119769049 (GDC)
= 0.01198 (4sf)
Finding the value for speed of sound
= 4/0.01198
= 333.9 m/s (4sf)

## • Line of maximum fit

=(0.002924-0)/(0.24516-0.0339)
= 0.012094139 (GDC)
= 0.01209 (4sf)
Finding the value for the speed of sound
=4/0.01209
= 330.9 (4sf)

## • Line of minimum fit

Gradient = ( y2-y1)/((x2-x1)
=(0.002924-0.0003684)/(0.24516-0)
=0.0104653061 (GDC)
= 0.01050 (4sf)
Finding the value for the speed of sound
= 4/0.0105
=380.9 (4sf)
Conclusion
Looking at the graph, it can be observed that as the time taken to complete one oscillation increased, the
height required to achieve the maximum amplitude also increased as predicted in the hypothesis. After
doing the calculations, the maximum value for the speed of sound was 380.9 m/s, the minimum value
was 330.9 m/s and the value obtained by the line of best fit was 333.9 m/s. These values give us is a
positive error of 13.8% and a negative error of 0.009% and the speed of light to be 333.9 m/s. The final
result is 1.2% off the theoretical value of 330 m/s.

Evaluation

If the final calculated value and the theoretical value are compared, they are found to be quite close to each
other. This shows us that the method used for the calculation of the speed of sound was quite accurate.
However an outlier was found, the positive uncertainty was found to be quite large, and the final value was still
3.9 m/s off. Perhaps some sources of error can be found that outline why this is so and suggestions to the
improvement are made to the method in order to achieve more accuracy.

Sources of error

Random

• Error: Angle that the glass tube made to the surface of the water This could have been affected by the
loosening of the clamp and also because of the fact that 90 degrees was not actually measured.
Solution Measuring this value using a protractor could reduce this error.

• Refraction of light
Error: While measuring the height of the air column, refraction of light through the glass medium could
have given values other that what they really were. This could have affected the calculations as the
height recorded for the air column would have been different.
Solution: A solution for this error would be measuring this value at eye level because no refraction
occurs when the incident ray enters at the normal

## • Damage to the tuning fork

Error: Perhaps the existence of the one outlier can be explained by assuming that the one tuning fork
was damaged.
Solution: A solution for this error would have been measuring the frequencies of the tuning forks
beforehand using a data logger so that the actual values are used for best results.

## • Interference from the other lab partners around you

Error: Sometimes it could be hard to judge the height at which the maximum amplitude was reached
because sounds were coming from other experiments that were set up in the same room. This could
impede judgment.
Solution: A solution for this error could be performing this experiment in a separate room

## • Error:Angle that the 30 centimeter ruler made to the set square

This could have affected the data because in the experiment, the ruler might not have been completely
perpendicular to the metre ruler because the divisions along which the 30 centimeter ruler was placed
were quite short.
Solution: A solution for this could be using a large set square instead of the 30 centimeter ruler so that
more accurate values are measured.
Systematic

## • Range was limited

Error: While measuring the gradient of the graph it can be seen that the range was quite limited as the
values did not go further downwards as the highest frequency used was 512 Hz.
Solution: If more data points with higher frequencies (and lower oscillation times as a result) were used,
the lines of maximum, minimum and best fit could have been a lot tighter and the positive uncertainty
could have been significantly reduced

## • Error: The uncertainty of both rulers

Solution: If the error bars had been smaller, perhaps the final values for the speed of sound would have
been more precise. This could have been done using other equipment such as stretching a non-elastic
string from the water level to the edge of the glass tube and then measuring the length. This would have
halved the error.

## • Damping effect of the tuning fork

Error: Due to the fact that the experiment was done in a non-ideal environment, the tuning fork would
have undergone damping effects. Therefore, it could have been difficult to judge precisely the height of
the glass tube where it achieves the maximum amplitude
Solution:A solution for this error could be hitting the tuning fork on the bob every 5 seconds

## • Temperature of the location

After some research it was found that temperature had a large role to play in the speed of sound. Perhaps
the calculated values would have been closer to the theoretical value if the temperature was taken into
account while obtaining the theoretical value for the speed of sound. (Source: Speed of Sound
http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/s/speed_of_sound.htm)

## Suggestions for improvement to the method

• Using more accurate equipment for measuring the change in height such as the string or even
laser equipment..
• Using a larger range of frequencies. If tuning forks with higher frequencies were used, the graph
would have been more accurate.
• Taking temperature into account while finding the theoretical value.
• Taking care to measure all values at eye level.
• Using a set square instead of a 30 centimetre ruler in order to the random error of the ruler not
being perpendicular.