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Experiment 6

Rigid Body Equilibrium

This experiment is designed to introduce the student to the concept of torque. Additional
definition of such quantities such as center of mass, equilibrium, static equilibrium, rigid body and
movement arm will also be introduced.
A particle (a mathematical point) is in equilibrium if the net force acting on it is zero.
According to ewton!s second law ("#ma) the acceleration of the particle will be zero if the net force
is zero. $t should be noted, however, that zero acceleration only means that the velocity of the particle
is constant. $f we impose that the velocity is also zero, the particle is said to be in static equilibrium.
%otational motion need not be considered for a point particle.
$n the real world, however, bodies of appreciable extent are the rule and the conditions of
equilibrium must be reconsidered. "or example, it is possible that the sum of the force vectors acting
on a body may be zero and still produce a rotational acceleration. $n figure & we see two forces, which
are equal, and opposite but still cause a rotational acceleration because they do not act along the same
line. 'uch a force pair is called a couple.
(onsider the following case) the same force is applied at varying points on a door ("igure *).
The time required for the door to swing through some specified angle is different for all four points of
application of the force ". $n fact, the speed of the door after swinging through the specified angle is
directly proportional to the distance from the hinge to the point at which the force is exerted, with the
exception of the force at position four. The force being applied at position four produces no rotation of
the door. +e have observed that the resulting rotation is dependent upon the force that is being applied,
the point at which the force is applied, and the direction of the force relative to the axis of rotation.
'ince the points on a body at which the forces are exerted are important, it is important that the
body is rigid. ,y rigid, we mean that the atoms and molecules ma-ing up the body do not change their
positions relative to each other. $nternal forces between these particles hold the body together and are
strong enough to do this no matter what external forces are put on the body. The body is rigid and
unbro-en and the internal forces will be neglected in the remainder of this discussion.
The tendency of a force to produce rotation is called torque () or the moment of force. The
torque is equal to the magnitude of the applied force (") multiplied by the distance (r) between the
point at which the force is applied and the axis of rotation, times the sine of the angle between


r . $n this case, it is surely true that a picture is worth a thousand words. .athematically, this
cumbersome statement simply means that for the situation depicted in "igure /,

=rFsin ( ).






axis of rotation


otice that sin () may be associated with either " or r (the choice being one of convenience to

= rFsin
( )
= r

F = rF



= rsin
( )
and F

= Fsin
( )
The distance


is referred to as the lever arm or moment arm of the force ".

Torque is a vector and, thus, there is a direction associated with it. The direction of the torque is
perpendicular to the plane formed by the line of action of the force and the moment arm. "or our
purposes here, it will be sufficient to say that torques tending to produce a countercloc-wise rotation
are positive and torques tending to produce a cloc-wise rotation are negative.
An important example occurs when the net torque on a rigid body about some axis is due to the
force of gravity acting on the body. The force of gravity acts on every atom of the body on both sides
of the axis of revolution. "or an axis at point & in "igure 0 most of the mass is on the right side of the
axis and the body will rotate in a cloc-wise manner. An axis through point * will produce a similar
result but the difference in the mass on the left and right sides of the axis is not as great as was the case
of axis point &. An axis at point 1 will have a large torque producing a countercloc-wise rotation. As
the axis point moves toward the left the net torque is reduced. 'ince the left axes (&,*) produce a
cloc-wise rotation and the right axes (0,1) produce a countercloc-wise rotation, there must be some
point / about which there is no torque on the body due to the force of gravity. This balance point is
called the center of mass or sometimes, the center of gravity. The center of mass is that point at which
the entire mass of the body seems to be concentrated.
(learly then, the equilibrium conditions necessary for an extensible body are that the sum of
the forces acting on the body must be zero and that the sum of the torques acting on the body about any
axis must be zero. The words 2any axis3 in the above statement is very important because in many
problems there will be an un-nown force acting on the force exerted by an un-nown weight (e.g. the
force exerted by a fulcrum). ,y 4udiciously choosing an axis to compute the torques acting on the
body, you can eliminate one of the un-nowns.
5xample) A meter stic- with a fulcrum at the 16cm mar- has a mass of &66 grams hanging at
the *6cm mar-. (ote) The distance from the fulcrum to the &66 gram mass is 16cm minus *6cm
which is /6cm.) +here must a *66 gram mass be positioned to balance the system7 +e will use grams
as a force instead of dynes or ewtons. 8ne gram force is the force of gravity acting on a one gram
The weight of the meter stic- and the force the fulcrum exerts on the meter stic- are un-nown.
9owever, if we compute the torque about an axis through the 16cm mar-, these forces will exert no
torque about that axis since the moment arm is zero.

= (30cm)(100grams) = 3000gramcm

= (x)(200grams)

= 3000gramcm (x)(200gram)
x =
cm = 15cm (the 65cm mark)
Apparatus) The equipment necessary for this experiment requires no explanation. :ou will need a
laboratory balance, a set of slotted masses, a meter stic-, a balancing stand, / meter stic- clamps and *
slotted mass hangers.
Experiment) As was stated earlier, we will use the gram force as our unit of force rather than
multiplying each mass by the acceleration due to gravity.
a) ;etermine the mass of the meter stic- and the various clamps. ,e sure to mar- each
clamp with a pencil in order to -eep trac- of them. %ecord the measurements on the
data sheet.
b) %emove the hanger from the support clamp and put the support clamp on the meter
stic- and place the meter stic- on the balancing stand. .a-e certain the loc-ing screw
on the support clamp is under the meter stic-. "ind and record the position at which the
meter stic- is balanced. This is the location of the center of mass of the meter stic-.
c) <lace weight clamp number & on the meter stic- &6cm from the left end of the meter
stic- and hang &16 grams on this clamp. <lace weight clamp * on the right side of the
meter stic- and hang *16 grams on it. .ove the right weight clamp to balance the
system. %ecord all the pertinent information on the data sheet.
d) (alculate the cloc-wise and countercloc-wise torques acting on the meter stic- in part
(c). (alculate the percent difference in the torques.


e) <lace the support clamp at the *6cm mar- and weight hanger & at the 1cm mar-.
%emove weight hanger * and place the meter stic- bac- on the balancing stand. Add
masses to the hanger until the system is balanced. =se the previously determined
position of the center of mass to determine the mass of the meter stic-.
f) Apply the two conditions for equilibrium to the setup in part (e) and find the force the
balancing stand exerts on the meter stic-. (,e sure to include the weight of the support
clamp on your calculations.) $n applying the torque condition, ta-e the torques about an
axis passing through the center of mass of the meter stic-. (alculate the percent
difference in these two determinations of the force that the balancing stand exerts on the
support clamp.