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The Wheatstone bridge provides precise measurements for resistance. It is a bridge circuit and
is composed of an electric field, a galvanometer, and four resistors. The bridge is balanced
manually and having three resistors of known resistance [R] , a 4
unknown [Rx] can be
determined. The unknown resistor can balanced against R1, R2, and R3 until the current shows
0. When the bridge is balanced, nodes C and D are the same voltage [V] so at this point :

. This also can be accounted for in comparison to node B, where

. Since
the voltage is the same at these points, you can use Ohm's Law to find the resistance of the

To solve for Rx,

Resistance R1 and R2 on the bridge are on a uniform nichrome wire and a contact position C
between them in the form of a tapping switch that is manually moved up and down the bridge.
The resistance of the wire is proportional to the length [L] of it:

Using the unknown resistance and a known resistance, Rx is determinable as :

Electrical resistance is the ratio of potential energy across a current [I] through the line, shown

Essentially, the more current, the less resistance and vice versa. In an Ohm conductor, the
current down the line is the same no matter what the potential difference is and is plot-able in
a linear fashion, where as a non-Ohmic conductor is non-linear due to chances in potential
difference. Resistance depends on the area of the material [A] , the length of the material [L],
and the material composition constant [p] , shown as :

The resistance is determined by the number of electrons per unit volume of the resistor, more
electrons captured/slowed means a higher resistance, and the collision of the electrons on the
material. These collisions cause a temperature buildup to do energy exchange on collision. The
collisions slow the electron and the resistivity can be shown as:

Where the final resistivity equals the initial resistivity times the sum of one plus the product of
alpha times the change in temperature.

Table 6.1: Data Table for Wheatstone Bridge:
Trial Metal AWG L (cm) L
(cm) L
(cm) R
1 Copper 22 1000 55 45 0.1
2 Copper 28 1000 49 51 2.2
3 Copper 22 2000 66 34 .2
4 Copper 28 2000 49 51 4.6
5 Nickel/silver 22 1000 68 32 3.6
Trial A (cm
) R

% error L/A
1 0.0130 .122 1.59E-6


10.17 7.7E4

2 0.00081 2.11 1.71E-6

1.77E-6 3.39 1.23x10
3 0.0130 .388 2.52E-6

1.77E-6 42.37 6.13x10

4 0.00081 4.42 1.79E-6 1.77E-6 11.3 2.47x10
5 0.0130 7.65 9.9E-5

33E-6 2.0 3.07x10

The slope shows that R is proportional to L and, according to the law


The Wheatstone bridge circuit is used to precisely measure an unknown electrical resistance.
By balancing the bridge and knowing three of the resistances, the fourth can be found. The
bridge was assembled and the resistance of different wires were measured. The wires
measured were different gauges of copper wire and nickel/silver wire. The different gauge
wires yielded different resistances shown in Table 6.1. The percent error for each wire was:
10.17%, 3.39%, 42.37%, 11.3%, 2.0%. The percent errors could be a result of malfunctioning or
un-calibrated instruments.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


1. Why could we not use the Wheatstone bridge to measure the resistance to current flow
of an electric heater when it is operating?

The premise that the bridge is an accurate way of calculating an unknown resistance is
false. It cannot calculate anything. It can only compare to a standard. If you want to find
an unknown resistance and you do not happen to have an exact match laying around
that you can use in a bridge configuration then you are forced to use Ohms law.

2. Why does the procedure in this experiment instruct you to find a null point that is near
the center of the slidewire?

So when the experiment requires you to move the slidewire to find a resistance you can
see the change on the galvanometer and record it easily.

3. What is the effect of a change in the ambient temperature on the resistivity of the wire?
Give a quantitative answer using the temperature coefficient of resistivity for copper,
= 3.82 x 10
. Compare at 20C to at 28C.

At higher temperatures ions vibrate with greater amplitudes and electrons collide more
frequently with these ions. With less time between collisions, electrons have a slower
drift velocity resulting in a smaller current for a given potential difference. Thus, the
resistivity increases with increasing temperature.
(20C)) =1.91x10
(28C)) =1.96x10

4. Cite data from your experiment that supports the following relationships: resistance is
proportional to the length of the wire; resistance is inversely proportional to the cross-
sectional area of the wire; resistance is proportional to the resistivity of the material.

From the data collected in the experiment and using the formula for resistivity it is
simple to see how one affects the other. The formula for resistivity is = RA/l or the
resistance multiplied by the cross-sectional area of the wire divided by the length of the
wire. As the wire increases in length the resistivity will decrease. Similarly the area and
resistance are also directly proportional to resistivity by the formula. As you increase the
area and resistance the resistivity will increase as well.