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Materials Science

Coursework and Investigations

for KS3 and KS4

May 2007


Ammonia Diffusion______________________________________________________________3
Enthalpy of Crystalisation________________________________________________________7
Viscous Goo Challenge___________________________________________________________9
Reactivity Series and Corrosion___________________________________________________13
To determine a reactivity series for a range of metals using a voltmeter___________________15
Passivity Demo / A level________________________________________________________17
An Electrifying Experience_______________________________________________________19
Tensile Testing_________________________________________________________________21
Hardness Testing_______________________________________________________________33

These experiments are intended as a framework to be adapted for the specific needs of a class.

All teachers should carry out their own safety assessment for all experiments.

Ammonia Diffusion
This Sc1 should follow a demonstration of the diffusion of ammonia and hydrogen chloride along a tube.
The position and shape of the smoke ring so produced indicates
Different gases diffuse at different speeds. This links in to the rate of diffusion being related to molar
The shape of the ring shows ammonia to be less dense than hydrogen chloride, since it slants in such a
way as to indicate that ammonia floats over the top of the hydrogen chloride. Leaving the ring to
develop illustrates this clearly.
Also, observing the ring closely shows small convection currents which can be stimulated by holding
two fingers below the ring and waiting for heat to diffuse through the glass.
This gives pupils imagination to tackle the Sc1
Does Ammonia gas diffuse equally fast in all directions?
The question prompts a discussion on the density of gases brighter pupils can calculate that ammonia
is less dense than air (approximates to nitrogen or oxygen nitrogen mix?) Others can look up data in a
book, or simply be told.
Diffusion works well in boiling tubes, typically taking 5 to 15 minutes to cover the distance from the neck
to base, depending on conditions.
Progress of the gas is measured by using thin, pink litmus sensors. (Long litmus strips give a diffuse
boundary which makes taking measurements harder.)
Diffusion (boiling) tubes can be set up along Cartesian axes, and brighter pupils may want to further
divide the angles. This should not be encouraged too much, especially initially.
There is scope for a reasonable, simple theory and prediction. Complicated or Simple plans to suit
pupils abilities are soon ready allowing lots of results and graphs to be produced for examiners. As
differences are random and not directional, there is plenty of scope for evaluations, explanations and
suggested improvements.
Some considerations for key factors include, amounts of ammonia solution used, water inside the tube
reabsorbing ammonia gas, holding the tubes and making one warmer than another, ammonia already in
the air
In spite of the difficulties, this Sc1 provides a short simple assessment that even the most challenged can
attempt and the brightest can score maximum marks in 2 3 weeks. It also teaches that experiments do
not always work the way you expect, but for GCSE that does not matter providing it is realized that the
experiment has not worked as expected ideally with an explanation.
Pupils will assume the ammonia advances down the tube with a flat diffusion front perpendicular to the
direction of diffusion. This is clearly not so. When difficulties arise, a demo of dropping a few cm 3 of milk
into a 250 cm3 of still water illustrates the misconception and answers some of the more confusing
anomalous results.
The following represents a distillation from a few bright (A* grade) pupils - for your ideas.

Does Ammonia diffuse equally in all directions?

Gases diffuse because their particles are moving very fast and are at very large distances apart compared
to their actual size. As a result particles of one gas can move between and mingle with particles of another
The particles spread out evenly throughout a container over time.
It is known that gases of low formula mass diffuse faster than gases of large molecular mass, as
demonstrated by allowing ammonia
Ammonia, NH3 is a gas at room temperature with a molecular mass of 17 g mole-1.
Air is a mixture of gasses at room temperature. For the purpose of this investigation it is assumed that the
composition of air is 80% N2 and 20% O2.
Therefore average molar mass of air

0.8 x MN + 0.2 x MO

Where MN and MO represent formula masses of nitrogen and oxygen respectively,


0.8 x 28 + 0.2 x 32

28.8 g mole-1.

Therefore the molar mass of ammonia is much less than the average molar mass of air.
The molar volume of any gas

24.0 dm3 at room temp. and press. (25C)

Therefore molar density of ammonia

17.0 g mole-1 / 24.0 dm3 mole-1.


Therefore molar density of air

0.71 g dm-1.

28.8 g mole-1 / 24.0 dm3 mole-1.


1.2 g dm-1.

Because ammonia gas is less dense than the surrounding air, I predict that flotation will assist diffusion in
the vertically upward direction, oppose diffusion in the vertically downward direction and have no
noticeable effect on the horizontal directions.
That is I predict diffusion upward will be faster than diffusion downward and that horizontal diffusion will be
an intermediate speed.

Method - Plan
Ammonia can be detected using damp, pink litmus paper that turns blue on contact with ammonia.
Ammonia can be controlled conveniently by using 0.1M ammonia solution on cotton wool. The gas
escapes from the solution and diffuses through air to the litmus paper turning it blue. The time taken for
the litmus to turn blue is recorded. By placing at least five papers at measured intervals in a boiling tube,
the speed (or rate) of diffusion can be measured along the tube.
The ammonia is made to diffuse upwards, downwards and horizontally in separate experiments, each
experiment being repeated to check measurements and to obtain an average value.

Cotton wool with ammonia solution

Strips of damp litmus paper stuck to the
inside of the tube by surface tension.

cm scale (graph
paper) taped to the




Key Factors to Control

The experiment was tested several times to determine the optimum conditions. Based on preliminary
tests, the following key factors to be controlled were noted.
Temperature should be the same for each test, since diffusion is due to the kinetic motion of particles and
the speed of the particles is related to temperature.
The amount of ammonia solution used (4 drops from a dropper), as more solution means more ammonia
evaporating per second and hence a higher rate of diffusion. (Diffusion from a point is concentration or
partial pressure dependant, hence the need to control the amount of ammonia.)
Parallax, hence the need to stick a scale as close to the ammonia as possible.
Need to use dry boiling tubes, as ammonia dissolves readily in water. If the ammonia dissolves in water
drops inside the tube, the measured rate of diffusion will be affected. (This may be discounted providing
the tubes are ALL equally damp at the start.
Use thin strips of litmus, as litmus paper changes through several shades of blue if diffusion is slow.
Thinner strips make the change sharper.
Handling of the tube needs to be minimal, as heat from the hand can cause localised warming and hence
change the rate of diffusion.

Method Procedure
A boiling tube was cleaned with a paper towel to make sure it was dry.
Thin pieces of damp, pink litmus were placed at approximately 1.5 to 2.0 cm intervals inside the boiling
tube using a glass rod.
The tube was clamped in position and four drops of ammonia solution were placed on a piece of cotton
wool that had been glued to a rubber stopper. The stopper was placed firmly into the boiling tube.
As soon as the first litmus turned blue, the stopwatch was started and the times taken for other papers to
turn blue were recorded.
This method was repeated for diffusion in vertically up, vertically down and horizontal directions.
Measurements for each direction were taken three times each and an average was calculated.
A graph of distance versus average time was plotted.


Predict Upwards

Predict Horizontal
Predict Downwards

Average time taken /sec

NOTE: The diffusion of any gas is not so simple. Some pupils will achieve results that agree with their
predictions by chance, most will not. A simple way of illustrating the point for pupils is to show a large tube
of still water in a measuring cylinder. The cylinder represents the air in the boiling tube. By adding a few
cm3 of milk, to represent the ammonia, the milk will be seen to swirl as it travels down the tube.
Sometimes it will move down one side of the cylinder before returning up the opposite side. Pupils often
get analogous results to this with the ammonia apparently diffusing the wrong way. This illustration of
turbulent flow is enough for pupils to explain any anomalous results. The turbulence is random and can be
influenced by many factors, such as holding the tube in one place, setting up convection currents, moisture
inside the tube (including the moist litmus paper) absorbing ammonia from the air. This gives good
opportunities for the student to suggest improvements and explain anomalous results. It also has the
potential to develop into a discussion about the differences between a model of a situation and the reality,
with the need to refine models to obtain more accurate predictions.

Enthalpy of Crystallisation
Thermodynamic terms can be difficult for sixth formers to understand, especially when they are not directly
measurable. This experiment does not provide an accurate method for determining the enthalpy of crystallisation of
sugar, but does offer an (edible) illustration of it.
Boiled sweets are essentially amorphous sugar and very soluble in water with an accompanying increase in
temperature. Granulated sugar, being crystalline requires that enthalpy of crystallisation is added to the system to
enable dissolution. Consequently, granulated sugar dissolves endothermically in water.

Using a measuring cylinder, measure 100cm3 of water and leave it to reach an equilibrium
Crush about three Foxs Glacier mints in a mortar and pestle. Take care as large pieces take
longer to dissolve and too much crushing may compact the mint into the base of the mortar.
Weigh an empty polystyrene cup.
Add the crushed mint to the cup.
Reweigh the polystyrene cup and obtain the mass of the mint used.
Take the temperature of the water using a 0 to 50C thermometer (easily readable to 0.2C).
Add the water to the mint, in the polystyrene cup, and stir vigorously to dissolve the mint.
Take care not to let any solution splash out of the cup.
Record the highest temperature reached.
Repeat the experiment using granulated sugar.
For the purpose of approximation, assume that both materials are chemically identical and the
mint is both anhydrous and completely amorphous.
1. Explain the observed difference in the change of temperature.
2. If left exposed to the atmosphere, the mint becomes sticky on the surface, but granulated sugar
does not. Explain this observation.
3. Of the two forms of sucrose, which has the highest energy level?
4. Make an estimation of the difference in energy of the two forms of sugar.
5. You may make very precise measurements in this experiment, but it cannot be accurate.
Explain the meaning of the terms accuracy and precision in this context.
6. Briefly discuss the accuracy of this experiment.
Assume specific heat capacity, s, of the solution is 4.3 J g-1 C-1.
Thermal energy change = ms(T2-T1),
Where m = mass of solution and (T2-T1) = Temperature change of the system.

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Viscous Goo Challenge

This simple experiment is fun for everyone and is often used as entertainment in
science clubs, Open Days or end of year activities. However in this format it is used
as a science investigation by linking observation to numerical values.
This is not intended to be a thorough piece of investigative work, but is used to
illustrate scientific principles in an entertaining way. There are several levels at
which this can be approached depending on the ability of the class that will carry
out the investigation.
Very young / low ability: This can be simply a bit of fun tied in with data collection
More able KS3 / KS4: The experiment can be used to reinforce ideas about

Solid, liquids and gases and their basic properties

Polymers, their properties and cross linking


Discussions about accuracy and precision of data and what level is appropriate

Top GCSE and A level

Hydrogen bonding

Curing (properties will change with time)

Creep (and an analogy to convection in the mantle of the Earth or metals)

and more besides.

PVA adhesive is non toxic, but is not edible.

Borax is poisonous if swallowed and may cause skin irritation where students have
sensitive skin or an allergy. Borax has been used as a domestic water softener a
mild antiseptic and domestic cleaner, though, today, applications are generally
superseded by more commercial products.

Viscous Goo Challenge - Teachers Notes

PVA adhesive (wood glue / white paper glue) will vary in composition depending on
its source, so it is necessary to try quantities for yourself. White paper glue
mixed with water in a 1 :2 ratio (glue to water) has been found to give consistent
results. PVA could stand for Poly Vinyl Alcohol or Poly Vinyl Acetate. In fact glues
are probably a mixture of the two, but since both are polar and can interact with
borax, this is not important for the experiment.
PVA is non toxic; Borax would be poisonous if consumed but (other than occasional
skin irritation) is harmless. Uses include mild anti-septic, fridge and kitchen
surface cleaner, water softener. Until recently borax was readily available from
chemist shops. The solution used is made as a saturated (4%) solution prior to use.
The behaviour of Goo is useful as a discussion on solids and liquids (stretches if
pulled slowly, snaps if pulled quickly). The flow of goo on a bench surface
illustrates creep. Creep is common in polymers and metals at about 1/3 mpt (lead is
a good example). Also convection currents in the solid mantle of the earth can be
describes as creep in a ceramic material. Although not the same process, there
are similarities with bonds being broken and reforming in a different position.
Whereas Goo will creep by several cm in a few seconds, lead will take centuries and
the mantle takes millennia.
Experiments can be aimed at KS2 to A-level, from purely fun activities to simple
experiments illustrating changes in physical properties of polymers due to cross
linking and intermolecular forces (Hydrogen Bonds).
It is possible to develop investigations based on the above experiments,
particularly the sinking coin by linking this to the amount of borax used on a fixed
amount of PVA.


Viscous Goo Challenge

Plastics (polymers) are large chains of repeating molecules. We can sometimes
change the properties of polymers and make them into more useful materials by
joining up the separate chains using chemical bonds. This is called cross-linking.
Chains of P.V.A. (Poly Vinyl Alcohol) can be (loosely) cross-linked by adding borax
solution. This results in the P.V.A. changing from a liquid to a rubbery slime.
Polymer chains can slide past each other under the effect of a force. Liquid
polymers are viscous (thick, not very runny liquids) because of forces between the
chains. We can change the viscosity by changing the way that the chains slide past
each other effectively changing the friction between them.
More force/friction = harder for chains to slide past = more viscous liquid.

Polymer chains tangled


Forces make the chains slide

past each other and line up.

Cross linking can

prevent the chains
from untangling.

PVA molecules and how they interact

Polymer Chain
Alcohol Group (Covalent OH )
The alcohol groups interact weakly and the chains
tangle. This slows the molecules down when they
try to slide past each other, making the polymer
behave as a viscous (treacly) liquid.

PVA molecules with Borax

Polymer Chain
Alcohol Group (Covalent OH )
Cross-Link: Strong Attractive Force
(Hydrogen Bond can be broken and re-formed easily)
Borate Anion: [B(OH)4]2The cross-link causes a MUCH stronger interaction,
making the material MUCH more viscous and can
even give the appearance of being a solid.
(Note: if the cross link was made using a stronger,
full covalent bond, then the material would be a
solid: e.g. rubber and thermosetting polymers.


Your challenge:
Design and test:
The slime with the greatest bounce.
The slime that can stretch the most without breaking.
Investigate the viscosity of slime as a function of the amount of borax used

time limit is 30 minutes.

5 minutes to make a plan.
10 minutes to carry out your plan.
10 minutes to carry out your tests.
5 minutes to clean up the mess.

The basic recipe for the slime is given below.

Chemical and Apparatus Lists

250 ml bottle of 25% P.V.A. solution (shared).

250ml beaker of saturated Borax solution (shared).
Borax is a >>>- POISON -<<< Wash your hands after using it!!!
Plastic dropper (each).
100 ml beaker (each).
Food dyes (optional).
Stirring rod (each).

Use the scale on the side of the 100ml beaker to measure 20m1 of the P.V.A.
solution. You may need to estimate from the scale. Ask for help if you are not
sure about this.
1. OPTIONAL you can stir in one (or two) drops of food colouring at this point.
2. Add between 1 and 10ml of the 4% borax solution. (Note: Its best if each

member of the team agrees to investigate a different amount of Borax

organise this between yourselves e.g. 2, 4, 6 etc ml.)
3. Stir vigorously for several minutes until the solution has gelled. You may find
that you have to scrape the GOO from the rod several times before you get
an even mixture. The more stirring you give, the better the GOO.
4. Wash your hands before eating or drinking anything. Borax is a poison if
Testing viscosity this is one possible method: feel free to test your own.
1. Prepare samples of slime made with different amounts of borax (2, 4, cm3
2. Leave to settle in a small beaker.
3. Place a coin on the surface and time how long it takes to sink.
4. Draw a graph of time to sink (viscosity) against volume of borax solution used.

Reactivity Series and Corrosion

Introduction Teacher notes (Strong GCSE or A-Level)
For this piece of work, it is assumed that a basic introduction to corrosion has been given and that
pupils are aware of the following
Rusting applies to iron only.
Corrosion is a (electro)chemical process.
Some metals are more reactive than others reactivity series / displacement reactions.
If two dissimilar metals are joined in a corrosive environment, the most reactive metal
corrodes, the least reactive metal does not.
Structural metals can be protected by coating them / connecting them with a more reactive
metal sacrificial protection.
Differences in reactivity between two dissimilar metals can also be used in an
electrochemical cell as a portable source of electricity.
The driving force for the electrochemical reaction can be measured in terms of the emf of
a cell using a voltmeter when no current flows between the electrodes.
The following work can be set as a class practical exercise or as a Sc1 investigation. There are
many difficulties with measuring the emf of the cells which must be tackled by the pupils
allowing for detailed discussion of accuracy, reproducibility and experimental error. However, if
this can be done then there is the possibility of good marks.
The major problem is in obtaining reproducible results; since the measured voltage will not be a
true emf (some current will flow). There is a major problem with fluctuating results due to many
causes (changes on the electrode surface, diffusion, convection and polarisation). On top of this
there is the problem of the measured potential decaying along an exponential curve.
Pupils must realise that this is part of the experimental problem which they have to overcome and
is not because apparatus does not work or they have done something wrong.
A technique to obtain acceptable results would include
Always start with a fresh electrode, preferably abraded just before use (fresh abrasive
paper to avoid particles of another metal being scratched into the surface.
Connect electrodes before inserting into the solution.
Leave electrodes for a predetermined time before taking a reading, e.g. 10 or 15 sec.
Always record which metal is connected to ve terminal of the voltmeter.
This exercise takes the form of a Sc1 investigation which assesses the ability measure data with an
awareness of experimental error and to evaluate those results. There is scope for more than one
investigation along these lines.


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To determine a reactivity series for a range of metals using a voltmeter

You have performed displacement reactions and have concluded that some metals are more
reactive than others.
You have also learned that these displacement reactions involve the oxidation of a reactive metal
and reduction of the ions of the least reactive metal.
Since oxidation and reduction in these cases involves the transfer of electrons and that moving
electrons constitute an electrical current, it should be possible to use electrical methods to
determine numerically if a metal is more reactive than another.
We need to determine the energy driving the reaction and the term associated with electrical
energy is the volt.
We will, therefore, set up some simple cells and connect the metals via a voltmeter to measure the
electrical potential (an energy related term measured in volts).
It is predicted that the order of the voltages measured will match the observations from
displacement reactions.
Stopclock (to measure seconds).
Voltmeter (high resistance to minimise current flow).
2 plug to croc leads (to connect electrodes to the voltmeter).
100cm3 beaker.
Approximately 100cm3 of 0.5M Na2SO4 solution. (Other solutions could be used,
preferably NOT including ions of the metals being tested or chloride ions.)

Electron flow circuit...



Ion flow circuit


Optional extras?
Magnetic stirrer / glass rod


Method Preliminary Work

After following these instructions, you may think of ways to improve your experiment in order to
obtain either better results or a better understanding of the experiment. Feel free to develop the
experiment as you see fit.
Abrade the electrodes surfaces using a fine paper. Take care not to leave fingerprints or other
marks on the surface.
Connect cleaned copper and zinc electrodes to the voltmeter.
Make sure the voltmeter is switched on before placing the two electrodes in the electrolyte at the
same time.
Notice the behaviour of the voltmeter reading over a minute or so. Also note the sign of the
voltage. What happens if the electrodes are swapped round?
Metal on +ve
terminal (Red)
Measurement Time
/ sec

Metal on (+ve)
terminal (Black)



More reactive




Voltage Measured

You will notice at least two important features about the voltage reading
1. The values jump about a lot, and
2. The values decrease, quickly at first but then more gradually.
This poses a problem of how to take an accurate measurement. In fact it will be impossible to get
measurements which give the same value each time the experiment is repeated (except by
chance). There are many variables which are affecting your results so we have to be very careful
with our method so as not to disturb the system more than necessary and to make our
measurements as consistent as possible.
Always start with freshly prepared, clean electrodes.
Keep electrodes as far apart as possible.
Possible further preliminary investigations
You have seen that the measurements decrease quickly. How can you make readings from
separate tests compatible with each other? (Note: Do not expect them to be the same
what, in your opinion constitutes consistent results for this experiment?)
Does stirring have any effect?
The process is temperature dependant. What reasonable precautions should you take to
make sure that measurements are as consistent as possible?
What if you connect two electrodes of the same metal?
You are to select pairs of metal electrodes and determine a series for the metals. Compare this
series with that of the reactivity series obtained from displacement reactions.
In your evaluation, comment on difficulties experienced in taking measurements and how you
tackled them.
How accurate do you think your measurements are, and with this in mind, how precisely should
they be recorded? Try to justify any assumptions made.


Passivity Demo / A level

Teacher Notes
(Safety note Use conc. HNO3 (aq) in a fume cupboard. The use of gloves to protect skin
is advised and eye protection must be worn.)
Under normal conditions, iron corrodes to produce rust, which is flaky and does not
protect the underlying metal from further chemical attack, as does the oxide layer on
aluminium. However, in extreme oxidising conditions, a thin continuous and adherent
oxide layer does form which does protect the substrate. This thin layer, microns thick,
can protect steels from further attack but is easily damaged.
Place a small piece of clean steel in a 100 cm3 beaker and cover it with a few cm3
of dilute nitric acid. Observe what occurs.
Now transfer the steel to another 100 cm 3 beaker and cover it with a few cm3 of
concentrated nitric acid. Observe what occurs.
Next return the steel to the first beaker containing the dilute acid. Take care NOT to
disturb the surface of the metal at this stage. If you avoid knocking the specimen
passivity will continue.
Tap the specimen with a glass rod and note what occurs.
This demonstrates the formation and breaking of a thin protective (passive) oxide layer.
Other oxidising acids (sulfuric and phosphoric have similar effects. Phosphoric acid is
used in commercial applications to treat car bodies for rust.
Identify any gases produced.
A level extension.
For comparison, add a small piece of copper to the concentrated acid.
Record what you observe naming any gases or coloured compounds formed.
Comment on why copper, which is less reactive than iron, reacts so much more
This explains why steel pipes, generally considered to corrode more than copper, are
used instead of copper pipes when using oxidising acids. This is relevant to chemical


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An Electrifing Experience
1. To show that an electric current can flow when different metals are connected via an
2. To show that this leads to corrosion of the metals involved.
Zinc foil, copper foil, powdered gelatine, 0.5M copper sulphate solution, 0.5M zinc sulphate
solution, filter paper, multimeter, leads
Zinc electrode
Filter paper containing
zinc sulphate gel
Moist filter paper

Filter paper containing

copper sulphate gel

Copper electrode
4 cm

1) Preparing the metal electrodes.
Each group will need 5 copper electrodes (cut from GP grade copper foil
approx. 0.1mm thickness) and 5 zinc electrodes (cut from GP grade
zinc foil approx 0.3mm thickness). Each electrode should be 3.5 cm
square with a 1.5cm x 1cm tab.





2) Preparing the electrolyte gels

Prepare a 0.5M solution of copper sulphate (12.5g/100ml water) using hot water. Add
2g of powdered gelatine per 100ml and stir until all dissolved.
Prepare a 0.5M solution of zinc sulphate (14.4g/100ml water) using hot water. Add 2g
of powdered gelatine per 100 ml and stir until all dissolved.
3) Preparing
the filter paper gels
Soak a piece of filter paper in the copper sulphate gel and hang it up to dry.
Either use standard Whatman No1 circular papers (90mm) or square
sheets (460x570mm).
Soak another piece of filter paper in the zinc sulphate gel and hang it up
to dry.
When the papers are dry, cut out squares 4cm x 4cm as shown.
4) Building a cell and a battery
Build the first cell as shown in the apparatus diagram above. Lay
a copper electrode on the bench; place a moist copper sulphate
filter paper gel on top of it, followed by a moist piece of filter
paper, a moist zinc sulphate filter paper gel and finally a zinc
electrode. It will be easier to make connections if the tab on the
zinc electrode points in a different direction. Connect leads to the
two electrodes and measure the voltage with a multimeter.
Create a battery by stacking up to 5 cells on top of each other.
You can measure the voltage of each individual cell or
combinations of them by connecting to different copper and zinc
electrodes in the stack. Record your readings in the table.



Cell 1

Cell 5
Cell 4
Cell 3
Cell 2
Cell 1


Connect the multimeter to the electrodes of the single cell and record the readings in the

Positive terminal on meter Negative terminal on

Reading on Multimeter
connected to:
meter connected to:
(in volts)
Copper electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 1
Copper electrode cell 1
Q.1) Which electrode forms the positive side of your cell, and which forms the negative?
Q.2) Which way is the current flowing around your circuit?
Q.3) Which particles form the electric current, and which way are they flowing around the
Q.4) Try making a cell with dry filter paper gels. Explain any difference in performance you
Build a battery of 5 cells. Investigate how the cells work together by connecting the
multimeter as shown in the table (and any other combinations you care to try).
Positive terminal on meter Negative terminal on
Reading on Multimeter
connected to:
meter connected to:
(in volts)
Copper electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 1
Copper electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 2
Copper electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 3
Copper electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 4
Copper electrode cell 1
Zinc electrode cell 5
Copper electrode cell 2
Zinc electrode cell 5
Copper electrode cell 3
Zinc electrode cell 5
Copper electrode cell 4
Zinc electrode cell 5
Copper electrode cell 5
Zinc electrode cell 5
Copper electrode cell 2
Zinc electrode cell 4


Sketch a graph showing the number of cells against the voltage read on the multimeter.
What is the relationship between the number of cells and the voltage output of the battery?
Explain why the output from the cells is not exactly the same.
How could the design of the battery be improved to obtain a better output?
What is happening at the interface between the copper electrode and the copper sulphate?
What is happening at the interface between the zinc electrode and the zinc sulphate?
What would you expect to happen to each of the electrodes if the cells were left connected
for a long period of time?
Q.10) Suggest two practical uses of the chemical reactions taking place in this experiment.
You may find this link helpful:


Tensile Testing
This refers to stretching a specimen at a constant strain rate and recording the measured load
required for that strain.
A perfectly elastic material would be expected to produce a graphical plot of stress v strain which
is a straight line, ending suddenly with a brittle failure. This occurs as bonds between
neighbouring atoms are stretched to the point of breaking. When a bond does break, it puts extra
load on the remaining bonds, making them more likely to break. A crack starts to run across the
material at this point and the material fails.
A ductile material produces, by contrast a curve due to plastic deformation taking place. As load
increases, atomic planes slide past each other causing physical distortion of the specimen and
simultaneously relieving the stress. Thinning of the specimen in one position (called necking)
occurs. In this localised area, however, the stress does continue to increase (due to reduction of
cross sectional area) which concentrates the plastic deformation in this area.
Most materials experience a combination of the two behaviours, with an elastic region followed
by a plastic region. Variations can be introduced through different heat treatments and alloying.

The following describes a simple experiment which can be used at any age from an investigation
at KS3 to an introductory demonstration at higher levels.
An excel Spreadsheet is provided for a number of metal samples. Although there is one
workbook in this spreadsheet determining the Stress / Strain characteristics, it is expected that this
workbook would be deleted for sixth formers so that they can calculate this for themselves from
the data provided.


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Plastic Deformation in Plasticine

This experiment can be used as a simple Sc1 investigation or class practical from KS 2 to A-level.
The practical is suitable for students of all abilities, allowing the least able to do something and
get results, while the most able can apply a high degree of understanding and link phenomena
such as necking with the onset of plastic flow, the decrease in load to maintain a constant plastic
flow, effects of inclusions on ductility and reduction in cross sectional area, influence of
temperature. At A-level this would be linked to stress-strain curves and although there is a
reduction in load, the decrease in cross-sectional area actually means that stress continues to rise
(difference between engineering and actual stress). This simple experiment is useful as an
introduction to stress-strain curves of metals.
Use different coloured samples of plasticine to represent a material containing different amounts
of precipitated particles.
Technical - Preparation of samples before the experiment
Make three lumps of plasticine, each of a different colour and each with a mass of 35g. The
colour provides a colour code to identify which specimen is which, later on, e.g. green, red and
Mix 2g of coarse sand thoroughly to the red plasticine and 4g of the same course sand to the blue.
These represent precipitates or particles within the microstructure of a metal.
This process takes time to thoroughly mix the sand and is best done for the pupils rather than by
Different amounts of sand may be needed to suit the grain size. It is better to use sand from a
builders merchant than from a fire-bucket, as this sand invariably contains a wide range of
particle sizes and is also usually dirty.


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To investigate the effect of inclusions (sand) in a ductile material (plasticine)

Roll the plasticine for about a minute to get it to hand temperature.
Shape each of the specimens into a cylinder of roughly the same size and shape below

Approx 6 cm

Approx 1.5 cm

Grip the ends of the cylinder firmly and pull the ends of the plasticine test pieces apart, slowly
and steadily care is needed or you may find your hands flying apart! This will constitute a failed
test. You may find that you have to ease off a little once the specimen starts to break.
Repeat for each specimen in turn, pulling with about the same force.
Examine the fracture surface of the plasticine using a magnifying glass.

The diameter of the test pieces started about the same size. Are the fracture surfaces about
the same size or is there a pattern?

Describe the pattern.

o What happened to the plasticine before it broke?
o What did you notice about the force needed to pull the ends apart at a steady rate
before the plasticine broke?

Use a magnifying glass to look closely at the surfaces. What do they look like?

Predict what would happen if you added 6g of sand to another 35g lump of plasticine.
Write what you think you would see and draw a diagram to help.

Now make the extra specimen with 6g of sand and put your theory to the test.

Describe what you found out. Were you right or was it different in some way? Comment
on your results.


Stress-Strain diagrams recorded on a Tensometer

The shape of the curves can be misleading due to a combination of the design of the Tensometer,
which is designed to provide a constant strain rate, and the behaviour of the ductile specimen
being tested. The following refers to specimen charts illustrated in the Excel file, Tensile
Tests.xls, on the OxMAT CD ROM (Reprinted for reference in the Appendix).
An overview of the properties of a ductile metal can be explained below. This is most closely
represented by Copper in the data provided in the spreadsheet, but all ductile metals show some of
these characteristics. Difference corresponding to carbon steel are considered later.
In the case of the three metals shown in the chart, all follow the following general patterns:In the diagram (right)

Engineering Stress (Nm-2)

Initial origin
OO1 =
Permanent elongation
Elastic limit
Linear region
General point beyond A
Relaxation if stress removed
(Note: O1B is parallel to OA)
Maximum Strength
Region of plastic Deformation
Plastic Flow
(Note: This is the region where necking or
localised thinning of the specimen takes



Strain (No dimensions)

The overall shape (not values) of the curve would be the same for a plot of Force v length.
However, plotting (Engineering) Stress v Strain standardises the curve for different cross sectional
areas and different lengths.
Problems: The plot assumes that the initial cross sectional area and length are constant
throughout. This is not the case.
The volume of material remains constant, therefore as the length increases, the cross
sectional area decreases. This effect is minute and is generally ignored over the elastic
Once necking takes place, however, reduction in the cross sectional area becomes marked.
This is not normally allowed for in these plots and can give lead to misleading
observations. Since the Stress is determined by Load/Area, as localised area decreases, the
stress will, in fact increase at this point. As the Tensometer cannot measure the decrease in
cross sectional area, it is not actually measuring the True stress, but the stress assuming
a constant cross-sectional area, referred to as the Engineering stress.
Engineering stress is generally used for simplicity, since once this starts to happen, any safe
loading has been exceeded by far, and few structures are designed to fail in such a precise way.
Exceptions may include safety bolts that are designed to fail under dangerous loading conditions.


Line OA: The line is linear and the material follows Hookes Law. Relieving stress returns the
specimen to its original, unstretched length.
Beyond A: the stress is such that dislocations (later) in the crystal start to move. This changes the
spatial arrangement of some of the atoms relative to each other, hence a permanent change in
length is observed and the line is no longer linear.
Relaxing the specimen of all stress at this point allows the Stress v Strain line to follow a path
parallel to the line OA, as the slope is a property of the material (Youngs Modulus =
Stress/Strain), but returns to point O1 where OO1 indicates the permanent extension resulting from
the movement of dislocations.
Carbon Steels
The above applies to carbon steels also, but the alloying element carbon affects the behaviour of
the dislocations.
Carbon atoms are small compared to iron and tend to fit between iron atoms in the crystal lattice
(interstitial alloy), as opposed to occupying the site of an iron atom in the crystal as happens with
metal-metal alloys (substitutional alloys).
The position of carbon atoms increases the local stress (same dimensions as pressure) in the
crystal. If the atoms could be positioned in a region where the crystal lattice is imperfect, and
greater gaps between iron atoms are found, then the stress will be reduced. Placing the interstitial
atoms in these spaces (see dislocations, later) forms a lower energy situation than having the
carbon distributed within a perfect crystal lattice. Such imperfections occur at grain boundaries
(where crystals of different orientation meet) and at dislocations. Natural systems adjust from
high to low energy systems, therefore, to minimise the energy of the system, carbon atoms diffuse
to these sites that is, grain boundaries and dislocations.
Carbon atoms occupy the larger than usual gap at a dislocation. This prevents the dislocation
from moving and is said to pin the dislocation.
If the dislocations in iron are pinned, then they
cannot move, preventing plastic deformation at
stress values that would otherwise result in
plastic deformation. This extends the useful
range of the iron by extending the elastic
region of the stress v strain curve. There is a
limit, however, and once it is reached, the
dislocation is forced past the carbon atom that
has been pinning it. This results in a slight
relaxation and an initial peak at the end of the
elastic region. More dislocations are pinned,
preventing further deformation, hence the line
rises again. This stress and relaxation pattern
repeats a number of times giving the series of
peaks observed in the graph.



C Steel
Pure Iron


occur when an otherwise perfect
crystal has an extra plane of atoms

Consider crystal planes, viewed edge-on,

so they appear as straight lines

The extra plane displaces adjacent

planes, increasing local stress. Bonds
between metal atoms are strained and
therefore of higher energy than those
within the bulk of the perfect crystal
and can, therefore break more easily.
Note: in the diagram, the three atoms
(a. and b.) represent a plane of atoms
perpendicular to the plane of the paper
and the extra space forms a tunnel
into which carbon (and other atoms)
can diffuse, thereby forming a lower
energy system.

a. A perfect crystal

Under the influence of a stress (tensile

or compressive), metallic bonds
between the metal atoms become
strained and break, reforming with
atoms of the adjacent extra plane
(figure c.). Effectively, the dislocation
moves, disturbing the arrangement of
atoms and giving rise to a permanent
change of shape (ringed in figure d.)

b. A dislocation

c. Under stress, bonds flip

Insertion of interstitial atoms, such as

carbon, into the dislocation makes
bond flipping more difficult. Higher
energy is needed to make the
dislocation move. Once the dislocation
has moved, the material continues to
deform until held back by more pinned
dislocations, resulting in greater
d. The dislocation moves changing the
resistance to plastic deformation: this
spatial arrangement of the atoms around it:
is indicated by further rising of the
that is a slight, permanent change of shape
curve. The process repeats several
times resulting in a series of peaks
before all dislocations have become unpinned.
Please note.
This is a simplified explanation of the influence of carbon, or other interstitial alloy elements on
the behaviour of steel. The whole process is also affected by heat treatments (which can produce
a variety of different microstructures and crystal allotropes within the steel), other alloy materials
and actual strain rates of the test. However, it should be more than detailed enough for any ALevel treatment of the subject.


Chart showing stress v strain charts for different metals.

Engineering and True Stress / Strain

In tensile testing, the load cell in the tensometer detects load only. The tensometer is designed to
test specimens of fixed dimensions and hence of fixed and constant cross sectional area and
original length. Using these pre-defined values, output is read in terms of stress and strain.
, where F and a are the applied load (N) and cross sectional area (m2)
Strain is defined as , where e and l are the linear extension (m) and original length (m)

Stress is defined as

As the test proceeds and elastic the limit is exceeded, the specimen necks and permanent
extension takes place, hence both the cross sectional area and original length of the specimen
change. The Tensometer cannot take these changing values into account and continues to assume
the initial values, resulting in error values of the absolute stress and strain. In the absence of any
cost effective way of correcting this defect in the experimental design, the output is accepted, but
is qualified by referring to Engineering stress and strain.
If the true stress and true strain could be plotted, the lines of the charts would continue to rise, as
the stress in the region of necking continues to rise as a result of decreasing cross sectional area.


Elastic Limit and Limit of Proportionality

In the detail of a stress strain diagram

Elastic Limit


Limit of Proportionality



From origin to LP, the metal obeys Hookes Law. That is:Stress



Furthermore, extension is not permanent, and removing the

load will return the metal to its original size and shape
Beyond the point LP, but NOT coincident with it, is a point
at which plastic flow starts to occur, EL.
Beyond EL, there are two components to the extension,
such that if the load is removed and elastic component will
result in the material trying to regain its original size and
shape, but also there will be a plastic deformation, resulting
in a permanent increase in length. (This was discussed in
the last email.)

Path taken on

Path taken on


The region BETWEEN LP and EL is also purely elastic, with full recovery on the unloading of the metal, but is NOT
To explain this feature, we need to consider the Potential Energy between metal atoms as the separation of the atoms
changes. As the atoms approach, the PE changes:1.


Decreases (-) due to electronic / bonding effects (inverse square law).


Over relatively large distances, the attractive force dominates.


Approaching from infinity (moving right to left in figure 2a), the PE increases to a large negative
value (- for attraction) as the extent of electronic / orbital overlap increases.


The PE increases as the square of the distance.

Increases (+) due to repulsive forces between nuclei (inverse cubic).


Over very short distances, the repulsive force dominates


As the nuclei approach (moving right to left), electrostatic repulsion increases the PE (+ for
repulsion) between the atoms


The PE varies as the cube of the distance.


There is an equilibrium position where the forces balance and the PE is at a minimum value referred to as the
Potential Energy well. This corresponds to the bond length, or lattice parameter in the case of a cubic metal


The PE well is not symmetrical. To the left, repulsive forces (varied as 1/distance cubed) dominate and to
the right, attractive forces (varied as 1/distance squared) dominate.


Compressing the material is, therefore harder than extending the material.


In extending the material, the atomic distance is increased. Over a short period of time, this approximates to
a linear relationship.


Larger distances reduce the attraction between neighbouring atoms making it easier for bonds to break and
reform, e.g. at a dislocation, where a strained bond breaks but reforms with a closer neighbour. Hence we
get plastic deformation.


Between the linear, elastic region and the onset of plastic deformation is a region in which

The relationship between force and distance is NOT linear, but


The attractive forces do not allow for bonds to break, hence


A non-linear, elastic region is recognised.


PE between atoms
PE due to Attractive forces

Rapid rise in repulsive PE

hence compression is
very difficult

PE due to Repulsive forces

PE due to Combined forces
i.e the above two lines
added together.
Inter-atomic distance

Beyond recovery, some bonds

break and new ones form
between neighbouring atoms.
(Dislocations move)

Elastic, but

Relatively linear over a

short region.
(Up to LP on - plot)
Equilibrium condition
The Bond Length
2b: Linking the energy well to the
Stress-Strain plot

2a: Potential Energy well for

adjacent atoms in a metal

NOT drawn to scale

During Plastic Deformation an extension and worked example

Dislocations provide the energy for strained bonds to break, but these bonds reform in a less strained position. Other
bonds become strained etc. as the dislocation moves through the metal. It should be noted at this point that work is
being done, since effectively, planes of atoms are moving through the crystal under the influence of an applied force.
Doing work generates heat, hence the metal warms up. This is illustrated clearly by

Straighten out a trombone paper clip.


Place against the lips to notice the temperature. (This may not be necessary)


Bend back and forth rapidly until the clip breaks.


Place against the lips and notice the very large rise in temperature. This may be noticeable through the
fingers, but the lips are more temperature sensitive.

Furthermore, the clip bends easily at first, but it soon gets harder to bend. This is due to

The generation and movement of many dislocations. The dislocations are limited to sliding along specific
crystal planes.


Bottlenecks of dislocations jam up the crystal planes used by the dislocations.


In turn this restricts / prevents dislocations from moving and hence limits plastic flow / ductile behaviour.


The material is hardened, as steel is with carbon, by the pinning of dislocations but via a different


This mechanism is referred to as Work hardening.


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Hardness Testing
Hardness is the resistance of a material to plastic deformation. This property can be used to
measure the hardness of a material by deliberately indenting the surface with a known load and an
indenter of known shape and size. The experiment / investigation is relevant to reinforce
terminology such as plastic, elastic, ductile, brittle, hardness, toughness and could be applied in
science or DT at Key stages 2, 3 or even 4 (where higher assessment marks are not an issue).
The principle behind this home made apparatus is that a fixed, pointed shape is pressed into a
surface by a consistent force.
Plasticine can be tested at different temperatures using ice-water and ice-salt-water mixes allow
two values below room temperature, the use of a water bath at 50C allows a safe maximum value
to be used, hot water in a beaker, allowed to slowly cool to a test temperature and room
temperature itself allow five test temperatures.
Plasticine is a very poor thermal conductor, so temperature variations will be minimal if the pupils
test as soon as the plasticine leaves its heat source.
If left in water at 50C for several minutes, anomalous results may be obtained indicating that the
plasticine has been hardened.
Testing different woods (parallel, perpendicular and end-on to the grain), different plastics,
different metals, the effect of using composites could link with DT.
Small indentations can reasonably be observed with a magnifying glass and metal rule.

Could be used as Sc1 at KS3.

Dropping masses from greater heights and/or increasing the size of the mass are ways of
adjusting to harder materials.

Only materials which are softer than the indenter can be measured. The point of the
indenter is likely to wear with time if hard materials are tested.

The thickness of the material to be tested must always be such that neither energy nor
indention is transferred to the substrate.

Beware testing brittle materials, such as glass.


To investigate the hardness of plasticine at different temperatures.

Many substances soften and become more ductile when they are heated.
Indentations in plasticine will increase as the temperature of the plasticine increases, because as it
softens it becomes more ductile and is, therefore, more easily deformed.
Place equally thick discs of plasticine in different temperature environments for about 15
minutes to allow the temperature of the plasticine to become even throughout.

Place the base of the tester on the plasticine disc.

Place the point of the indenter on the plasticine, through the central hole.

Fit the tube in place

Drop a weight from the top of the tube.

Measure the indentation.

Record results and repeat to obtain three values at each of five temperatures.

Results (Typical temperature values are given)


Temperature / C

Ice-salt-water mix


Salt-water mix


Room temperature


Cooling water


Water bath


To be decided


Indent / mm

24 mm

All measurements are

approximate and to fit
Approx. 45

Wood / Cork

20 mm


40 mm

The diagram is intended to suggest a possible construction,

only. Materials and dimensions can be chosen to suit the needs
of the class and available materials.
Any suitable and available materials can be used e.g.
Al, Cu, plastic, cardboard
Al, Fe, wood or plastic
Fe, brass, lead
Fe, Sharpened wood (pencil in simple
cases) , Nail in wood

Length to suit e.g.

200, 300, 400 mm

3 mm

20 mm

Weights in simple ratios that can be

dropped onto the indenter.
20 mm
20 mm
20 mm
20 mm

150 mm


30 mm

40 mm

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Teachers Guide
The following is not intended to be a full or detailed explanation of Creep, but sufficient to
introduce to pupils at school and give the non-specialist teacher a background that is greater than
that which would be required for schools. The mechanism of creep is not discussed and it should
be noted that the text is very general since different metals will have different characteristics.
Engineering Stress (Nm-2)

Stress-Strain Diagram
In the diagram (right)
Initial origin
Elastic limit
Linear, elastic region
Maximum Strength
Past C =
Region of necking


Strain (No dimensions)

Plastic deformation occurs in metals via a mechanism of dislocation movement in which a linear
defect slips one atom position at a time giving the same effect as a plane of atoms gliding through
the crystal. The relative position of atoms moves one position per dislocation.

Under shear forces, a dislocation

moves along a crystal (slip) plane
until it reaches the edge. Here the
stresses are relieved and a step is
left at the crystal surface.

Many millions of these dislocations move through the crystal along different planes, frequently
their paths intersect. Dislocations cannot occupy the same space nor pass through each other, so
they lock together. This is called a JOG. Because the dislocations block free movement to each
other, the material is hardened and exhibits increased resistance to further deformation. This
hardening due to the effect of applying forces (doing work on the material) is termed WORK


Now, consider a dislocation under compressive forces. The dislocation is squeezed out of the
crystal, perpendicular to the compressive forces but to allow this, there must be some diffusion of
atoms away from the dislocation.

Because the dislocation is not sliding in a direction perpendicular to the intersecting plane along a
plane, but is moving along the intersecting plane, we have a different mechanism. The former is
effected by flips of metallic bonds, and the latter by diffusion processes. This latter process is
referred to as CLIMB.
Combining the above mechanisms, we can imagine a crystalline metal in which dislocations are
jogged (that is locked together, preventing further movement). If there is sufficient temperature to
allow diffusion processes to become significant, then the jogged dislocations may climb (out of
the way of each other such that they no longer affect each other. Once the dislocations are no
longer aligned, then the dislocation may continue on its journey under the influence of applied
The temperature at which the diffusion processes becomes significant is about 1/3 of the melting
point of the metal on the Kelvin scale. Lead is usually chosen to illustrate creep experimentally,
since it has a melting point of about 327C (600K) and a room temperature of 27C (300K) places
it in excess of this temperature. This explains why lead used to cover a sloping roof tends to flow
down the slope of the roof over time, such that the lead is thinner at the top than at the bottom.
During creep, the metal will thin uniformly. This decreases the cross sectional area of the metal
and as a direct consequence, the stress increases. Eventually the stress increases to a point where
normal ductile failure occurs and there is then evidence of necking in the final stages.


Since creep is diffusion controlled, it is a time dependent process. The process has been noted to
have three distinct phases as shown in the diagram.
Both primary and tertiary stages are relatively short times
compared to the steady state phase. The diagram on the
right greatly distorts the time axis to show the shape of the
primary and secondary phases. These may be a matter of
seconds or minutes whereas the steady state may be hours,
days or years.
In creep experiment described here, from specimen data, it
will be noted that two different mechanisms may be
1. High stresses ordinary ductile failure short
failure times.
2. Low stresses a diffusion based creep mechanism long failure times.
In a simple loading experiment in which load is recorded along with time to failure, a plot of load
v log(10)(time/sec) produces data (specimen data collected with apparatus as described in the
following pages) that graphs as

The existence of the two slopes allows for students who make careful observations to identify
these changes in slope and for the more able student to suggest that this may be due to different
mechanisms. Without being prompted, there is no reason why students up to and including A
level should know any detail about the different mechanisms simply to note the evidence and
deduce the fact would be commendable.
It will be noted that, in the experiment, the treatment of data requires that load be plotted against
log(10)(time). This should not be beyond A level candidates, and GCSE pupils should be able to
use the log function of a calculator. To make the analysis simpler, the teacher could provide a
spreadsheet into which pupils enter data and a graph is automatically plotted. Needless to say,
where assessment of ICT is required, teachers could set a separate exercise for pupils to prepare
their own spreadsheet.


The apparatus can be made from cheap easily obtained materials.


Retort Stand


Support Bar

3-windings around the

dowling and then fasten
to the eyelet

Kite String


Fishing Line Guide (Taut)

Wooden Block (Base)


Alarm clock


1. Measure about 20 cm lead wire taking care not to crease it or bend it sharply, as this will
introduce mechanical working that will affect the results.
2. Attach the wire to the eyelet on the top support bar.
3. Wrap the wire around the support bar 3 times this provides a friction grip that prevents
excess load being placed on the eyelet connection.
4. Attach the lead wire to the lower load bar in a similar way, making sure that the length of
wire to be loaded is consistently the same each time (about 15 cm).
5. Set the timer to -1 min.
6. Connect the timer lead to the top eyelet.
7. Attach the timer lead to the lower bar: the clock will start.
8. Attach the weights to the sling below the lower bar BUT SUPPORT THEM UNTIL THE
9. Carefully apply the weights onto the lead wire. The weights must NOT be released
suddenly as this may cause a premature failure.
10. Leave the apparatus, ideally in a draft free and constant temperature place until the wire
11. Record the time to failure and the weight applied.
12. Use a micrometer to measure the diameter of the wire before and after the experiment.
a. What is the initial stress?
b. What is the final stress?
c. Does the wire thin uniformly over its length, or only at the site of failure?
13. Repeat the experiment for loads in the range 150g to 350g. This type of experiment will
produce what appears to be a large scatter in the results especially for the longer times.
It may be useful to repeat each experiment at least once and calculate an average. This is
because on the microscopic scale, and below, where the failure mechanism applies, each
and every piece of wire is individual and has its own microscopic defects no matter how
carefully you handle the wire.
14. Plot the results of Load (or stress) against log10(time / seconds). Your teacher may provide
a spreadsheet to help with this.
15. What do you notice about the slope of results with high loads compared to those with
lower loads (above / below about 320g)? Can you suggest an explanation?
Note: The lower loads may take in the region of 104s (27 to 30 hours) and the higher loads may
result in a failure of only a few minutes or even seconds.
Set up a creep test that, according to your results, will fail during your NEXT science lesson. The
group with the test that fails closest to the middle of the lesson is the winner!


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Technology Overview
A ferrofluid is a stable colloidal suspension of subdomain magnetic particles in a liquid carrier. The
particles, which have an average size of about 100
(10 nm), are coated with a stabilizing dispersing agent
(surfactant) which prevents particle agglomeration even
when a strong magnetic field gradient is applied to the
ferrofluid. The surfactant must be matched to the
carrier type and must overcome the attractive van der
Waals and magnetic forces between the particles. The
colloid and thermal stabilities, crucial to many
applications, are greatly influenced by the choice of the surfactant. A typical ferrofluid may
contain by volume 5% magnetic solid, 10% surfactant and 85% carrier.
In the absence of a magnetic field, the magnetic moments of the particles are randomly distributed
and the fluid has no net magnetization.
When a magnetic field is applied to a ferrofluid, the magnetic moments of the particles orient
along the field lines almost instantly. The magnetization of the ferrofluid responds immediately to
the changes in the applied magnetic field and when the applied field is removed, the moments
randomize quickly.
In a gradient field the whole fluid responds as a
homogeneous magnetic liquid which moves to the region
of highest flux. This means that ferrofluids can be precisely
positioned and controlled by an external magnetic field.
The forces holding the magnetic fluid in place are
proportional to the gradient of the external field and the
magnetization value of the fluid. This means that the
retention force of a ferrofluid can be adjusted by changing
either the magnetization of the fluid or the magnetic field in
the region.
A Ferrofluid is designed as a component of a device and therefore it must meet specific
performance objectives of the device. The selection of ferrofluid depends on many factors such as
environments, operating life, etc. There are many different combinations of saturation
magnetization and viscosity resulting in a ferrofluid suitable for every application.
The operating life of the product depends on the volatility of the ferrofluid. Products that require
long life must use ferrofluids with low evaporation rate or vapor pressure. Also, seals operating at
high vacuum must incorporate low vapor pressure fluids. On the other hand, ferrofluids for
domain observation must evaporate quickly so that the process time can be minimized. The lower
the volatility, the higher the viscosity of the ferrofluid.
Thermal conductivity of a ferrofluid depends linearly on the solid loading. Fluorocarbon based
ferrofluids have the lowest thermal conductivity of all commercial ferrofluids, therefore they are
the least desirable materials for heat transfer applications.
In devices, ferrofluids come in contact with a wide variety of materials. It is necessary to ensure
that ferrofluids are chemically compatible with these materials. The fluids may be exposed to
hostile gases, such as in the semiconductor and laser industries; to liquid sprays in machine tool
and aircraft industries; to lubricant vapors in the computer industry; and to various adhesives in
the speaker industry. Furthermore, ferrofluids may be in contact with various types of plastics and

plating materials. The surface morphology can also affect the behavior of the fluid. The selection
of ferrofluid is carefully engineered to meet application requirements.
Additionally, ferrofluids may be expected to perform at temperature of 150C continuously or
200C intermittently, in winter conditions (-20C) and space environments (-55C). They may
also be required to withstand nuclear radiation without breakdown.
The thermal stability of a ferrofluid is related to
particle density. The particles appear to behave like
a catalyst and produce free radicals, which lead to
cross linking of molecular chains and eventual
congealing of the fluid. Catalytic activity is higher at
elevated temperatures and, therefore, ferrofluids
congeal more rapidly at these temperatures.
Oxidation is another mechanism that contributes to
congealing of ferrofluids, and again the higher the
temperature, the faster the rate of reaction. The
ferrofluids in sealed environments stay in a liquid
state significantly longer than those in open air.
High magnetization ferrofluids are of interest as they produce volumetric efficiencies of magnetic
circuit designs leading to lightweight and lower cost products. They can also be used to reduce
reluctance of magnetic circuits and fringing field thus increasing useful flux density in the air gap.
The domain magnetization of magnetite ultimately limits the maximum magnetization value that
can be realized in a ferrofluid.
In summary we can say that Ferrofluids are a unique class of material. Ferrofluid technology is
well established and capable of solving a wide variety of technical problems. There are many
successful applications of this engineering material and there is immense future potential.
In many applications, ferrofluid is an active component that contributes towards the enhanced
performance of the device. These devices are either mechanical (e.g., seals, bearings and dampers)
or electromechanical (e.g., loudspeakers, stepper motors and sensors) in nature. In other cases,
ferrofluid is employed simply as a material for nondestructive testing of other components such as
magnetic tapes, stainless steels and turbine blades. When correctly applied, Ferrofluid can produce
dramatic improvements in a products' performance; or achieve a level of performance unattainable
by any other technology or product.
Ferrotec Corporation (formerly Ferrofluidics) has led the development of Ferrofluidic technology
since 1968 and has worked closely with many companies as their new product teams incorporate
ferrofluids in next-generation products. With a comprehensive fluid development and applications
laboratories in both the US and Japan, and an experienced staff of scientists and engineers
available to assist you, Ferrotec is well placed to help you solve your engineering challenges using

The above text is taken from the Ferrotec Web site
where much more information about Ferrofluids can be found. Much of the information on
the web site could be useful for school projects.


Ferrofluid Demonstrations
Ferrofluid in a bottle
Ferrofluids can be obtained from Ferrotec (expensive) or from (seller on ebay)
The ferrofluid is the dark brown fluid and is hydrocarbon based. The colourless liquid is a
support medium intended to reduce the surface tension of the ferrofluid and provide some
buoyancy hence improving the spikey effect due to a magnetic field.
1. Experiment with the magnet.

Note the spikey effect as magnetic nanoparticles attempt to follow the magnetic lines of
force and are confined by the surface tension of the support medium.

Note the effect of slowly withdrawing the magnet.

2. Effect of a shaped magnet

Pour a small (0.5cm3) ferrofluid into the aluminium container.

Place an aluminium container on top of the A magnet. Take care to approach the
magnet from ABOVE the ferrofluid will jump out of the container if the magnetic field
is strong enough.

Observe the shape of the ferrofluid. Move the magnet and observe.

3. Separation technique:

Pour ferrofluid into a container to a depth of about 0.5cm.

Add a 5p piece (Copper-nickel alloy and NOT magnetic whereas some 1p pieces are
magnetic. Do not use magnetic coins). The coin is seen to sink.

Place the container, ferrofluid and 5p piece over a strong magnet. Approach from above
the magnet.

The 5p piece floats. This is due to magnetite nanoparticles drawing closer together in the
magnetic field, thus increasing the ferrofluids density.

Add more ferrofluid. The coin does NOT rise to the surface.

Probe the ferrofluid with a thin rod. The coins is found to be floating just above the base
of the container. As distance from the magnet increases, the magnetic field decreases.
Hence the magnetite particles are not so close together and density decreases through the
fluid from bottom to surface. The coin floats at the point where it is neutrally buoyant.

4. Application fractional flotation of precious metals etc using a variable electromagnet.

Other useful web addresses for information about ferrofluids and how they can be used


For further information about class experiments, school visits and courses
(pupils and teachers), please contact:
Martin Carr
(Schools Liaison Officer)
Department of Materials
University of Oxford
Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3PH
T. 01865 273 710
F. 01865 273 789