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Evan OConnor Mr.

Bradford AP Physics 1 October 2011 Conclusion:

Conservation of Mechanical Energy

In this laboratory experiment, we created a system that exchanged mechanical energy between spring potential energy, kinetic energy, and gravitational potential energy. After mathematically calculating and graphing the sum of these forms of energy, as they exchanged joules of energy over time, we saw that the total mechanical energy remained constant. In our closed system, a car attached to a spring slowly bounced up and down a ramp. A sonic ranger measured the cars position. We found mechanical energy, K, by the equation K=(1/2)(m)(v2). The mass was the mass of the car and the weights on it, and the velocity was found using change in time over change in position, both given by the sonic ranger on Logger Pro. The green line in the graph represents kinetic energy. This line is low because the car moved very slowly. Kinetic energy is motion energy (as seen in the velocity squared term), and because the car moved slowly, its kinetic energy was small. The spring potential energy was energy given to the spring by it being stretched or compressed. It was calculated using the equation Us=(1/2)(k)(x2), with k being the measured spring constant, and x being the distance the spring was stretched or compressed from its resting position. This is the red line in the graph. At time=0s, this form of energy is low, because the spring was close to its resting position. However, as time goes on, its energy changes in a negative cosine wavelike curve. The amplitude of these waves decreases over time due to the very small air resistance and resistance of the track and wheels. The gravitational potential energy was found using Ug=mgh (h equals height from the ground). At time=0s, this starts high (blue points on graph), because the car had a relatively large height, before it traveled down the ramp. This graph continues in a positive cosine-wave line curve. These three types of mechanical energies were summed up to find the total mechanical energy of the system. As described earlier, the kinetic energy is a very small curve, whose relative fluctuations are small enough to be considered somewhat constant. Furthermore, the negative and positive cosine curves (Us and Ug, respectively) add together to an almost constant value. As proved by the graph of the sum of Ug, Us, and K, the total mechanical energy remains constant. This proves the concept of conservation of energy: in a closed system, total energy is conserved over time. The gravitational force and the spring force are considered conservative forces because they are able to store energy and convert that energy into usable mechanical energy. For example, if you pick up a book, the gravitational potential energy is stored and can be used when the book is dropped as kinetic energy. These forces are conservative and account for the fairly straight total mechanical energy

line. However, the reason for the slight jumps in the total energy line is party due to the slight nonconservative forces involved in the system. Forces like friction and air resistance are not able to store this energy, in the way described above. When you push a book against a surface, the work you have done to overcome friction is apparently lost. These forces account for the slight deviation in the straight line. Though the wheels and ramp are low friction, and air-resistance is small, these nonconservative forces do not apparently store energy that can be used in a different form (this energy, of course, does not disappear, we are just not able to measure its presence with the procedures used). The other reason for our deviation involves the sonic ranger. It was very difficult to angle it exactly perpendicular to the ramp, and as the car slid down the ramp, there were interfering sounds and angle that made the sonic rangers measurements slightly off. Overall, our graph clearly shows that total mechanical energy is constant, proving the law of conservation of energy in a closed system. It proves that energy cannot be created, nor destroyed. It only changes forms over time.