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- UT Physics Lecture 10
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- Moment of Inertia
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Inertia

Equipment:

per group: 2 stopwatches, 1 ruler, mass set, tape measure, meter stick, rotational

inertia mechanism

per table: string, scissors, mass balance

external force. Similarly, an object that is rotating will continue to rotate at a constant

angular velocity unless acted upon by an external torque. The rotation of an object about a

fixed axis, described by its angular acceleration , is determined by the objects rotational

inertia I (also called moment of inertia) and the torques that are applied. The fundamental

relationship between these variables is Newtons 2nd Law for rotation: net = I.

I. Moment of Inertia from Geometric Measurement. The moment of inertia of an object

depends on the mass of the object and (most importantly) the distribution of that mass

with respect to the axis of rotation. The moment of inertia for discrete or continuous mass

distributions is given by:

n

I = mi ri 2 = r 2 dm

i =1

where mi or dm is a mass element and r is the distance of that mass from the rotational axis.

In this lab you will use a wheel that consists of 3 uniform disks that share the same

principal axis. From the above equation, it can be shown that the moment of inertia for a

single uniform disk of mass M and radius R is Idisk = MR2. The total moment of inertia of

the wheel is simply the sum of the moments of each of the disks:

1

I wheel = M 1 R12 + M 2 R22 + M 3 R32

2

Since the wheel is constructed as a solid unit, it is not possible to

directly measure the mass of each of the individual disks;

however, given the density of the wheel using its entire mass and

volume, the mass of each disk can be expressed as Mi = Vi

(assuming uniform density). The volume of each disk is

2

Di

Vi = Li

2

In terms of D and L, the density of the wheel is then:

M

4M

=

=

V Li Di2

Therefore, the moment of inertia of the entire wheel can be expressed as:

I wheel =

1

Li Di4 or I wheel

32

i

LD

M

=

8 L D

i

4

i

2

i

[1]

II. Moment of Inertia from Dynamic Measurement. In this experiment, a mass hung

from a string connected to the rim of a wheel applies an external torque that makes the

wheel rotate.

R

F

Since the string is tangent to the rim of the wheel, the tension in the string acts

perpendicular to the radius of the wheel (refer to figure), so the torque produced by the

hanging mass is simply the product of the tension times this radius:

string = TR

Applying Newtons second law to the hanging mass, we have: mg T = ma

Therefore, the torque applied by the hanging mass via the string is: string = m( g a ) R

The wheel rotates about its principal axis on metal pin bearings that allow it to spin freely

but not completely without friction. The friction in these bearings produces a torque that

opposes the torque applied by the hanging mass. Newtons second law for the wheel is

then:

string friction = I

a

With a = R (why?), an alternative representation is:

string = I + friction

R

a

Equating the two expressions for string yields:

[2]

m(g a)R = I + friction

R

III. Procedure. You will do an experiment to both calculate the moment of inertia from

given disk parameters (Exploration 1), and also by doing a dynamic measurement of

acceleration (Exploration 2). Use your notebooks as needed to record data and perform

analysis. In Exploration 3, you will begin plotting data and analyzing in preparation for the

deliverable. The deliverable is a full lab report, with an analysis that requires Excel to fit

your data to a trendline model given by Equation [2]. From the trendline, determine the

moment of inertia of Exploration 2 and compare it to the calculated moment of inertia from

Exploration 1.

Exploration 1 Direct Calculation of Rotational Inertia (30 min)

The dimensions of the three disks are shown in the following table.

L1 (cm)

L2 (cm)

L3 (cm)

D1 (cm)

D2 (cm)

D3 (cm)

2.53 .01

2.58 .01

2.54 .01

7.64 .01

15.33 .02

5.08 .01

The total mass of the three disks combined is 4.9 0.1 kg.

Calculate the moment of inertia for the wheel using Eq. [1], and determine the

uncertainty in this value. This is an ideal opportunity to leverage Excel to do both the

calculation of the moment of inertia and its uncertainty.

Show and record the calculation in your notebook; be prepared to summarize this

analysis in the lab report.

Be prepared to analyze and discuss (in the lab report), the relative contributions of

each sub-disk to the total moment of inertia of the entire disk.

The wheel in this experiment is designed to spin freely, but friction is still a factor that

cannot be ignored. Before taking data, check to make sure your wheel spins freely. When

the axles are properly adjusted, the wheel should rotate for several seconds after gently

spinning it with your hand. If this is not the case, check with an instructor. Do not remove

the wheel from its support mechanism.

Hang a mass from a string tied to the rim of an individual disk and align the bottom

of the mass with the bottom of the table top (or some other convenient and welldefined position). Use a stopwatch to measure the time for the hanging mass to fall a

vertical distance h, and from that value determine the acceleration experienced by

the hanging mass (why is this acceleration not equal to g?).

Repeat this measurement several times to find an average acceleration for a fixed

height and applied torque. Use the standard error to estimate the uncertainty in the

time (efficiency hint: if each lab partner uses a stopwatch, multiple time

measurements can be made simultaneously for each trial).

Repeat the experiment using different hanging masses and different disks to obtain

at least 5 torque values. Do not invest time in making many measurements until

you read and understand Exploration 3. You will be plotting data and you

cannot complete the lab unless your data is sufficiently distinctive (spread

out) to reach a conclusion.

Critical: if the hanging mass is too small, the wheel will either not move (friction too large)

or will move at a constant speed (string = friction). The mass must be large enough to produce

a measureable acceleration experiment with the setup before starting measurements.

Important Note: you are NOT required to finish Exploration 3 in the studio; however, you

should do enough of it in the studio (see Exploration 2) to understand what you are doing

for the deliverable. In particular, make rough plots of your data in your notebooks or

preferably in Excel as you proceed with Exploration 2 to make sure your data points are

sufficiently separated; if not, adjust your procedure accordingly. You will not be able to

redo your data collection after the studio, although you may finish your analysis outside of

studio.

Plot mi(g ai)Ri vs ai/Ri in Excel for the five (or more) points from Exploration 2. Refer to

Eq. [2] as to why you should be doing this (discuss in your group and ask for assistance if

you do not understand why this is being done understanding will be critical to completing

the lab individually). In order to get a good plot, the data points must not lie close to each

other or on top of one another this is why you must experiment with different torques

(created by using different masses mi and different radii Ri).

Deliverable. The deliverable for this lab is a Full Lab Report. The outline on the next page

contains information and tips for writing the lab report. Here is some general information

about the report (see next page for list of concise requirements):

o Due on Wed, Apr 13, at the beginning of studio.

o This assignment is worth 100 studio points.

o No group submissions each student must submit his or her own report.

o You may use the contents of this document for source material, but do not plagiarize

your colleagues we will scrutinize reports for honor code violations.

o Must be turned in on paper. Due to the unreliability of CCI printers, waiting until Apr

12 to print your Report is NOT advised.

Late policy: unless you have made prior arrangements with the instructors due to

a special situation, you will be docked 10% per day for a late submission. To wit:

o If you miss the deadline at the start of studio, you will be docked 10%

o If you miss the deadline + 24h, you will be docked 20%, etc

o Use an appropriate number of sig figs when citing any results and their

uncertainties.

o Refer to previous assignments and the Studio Measurement and Uncertainty Guide

for necessary aspects of correct plotting of data (axes, title, error bars, etc).

o There is no minimum or maximum page limit; however, please note that excessive

length does not automatically equal a better report and may be graded down. Strive

to get your point across concisely in every section of the report, and minimize

repetition.

o Grammar and spelling count, so please use your writing skills and the tools that

your word processor provides for this purpose.

o Refer to the Studio Measurement and Uncertainty Guide for information on

calculating uncertainties, and performing a linear regression in Excel.

o Refer to the Jan 16 Sakai Announcement for general guidelines on how to write

the lab report, including links to two example lab reports.

o Title of Activity

o Date of Activity

o Name

o Names of Group Members

o Studio Section and Name of Studio TA

o Honor Pledge

Abstract

o Limited to 250 words

Introduction

o Optional, but can help the overall presentation of the report

o If included, limit to 1 page

o Can be referred to in the other sections, making those other sections more concise

o List of equipment used and diagrams of experiment would be here

Analysis

Show calculation of the moment of inertia of the disk (see Section I and Exploration 1)

and its uncertainty. Also calculate the relative contribution of each of the sub-disks that

make up the whole.

Brief analytical description of the connection between the linear acceleration of the

weight and the rotation of the wheel (see Section II).

Brief description of how you measured acceleration and a table of the data used to

determine acceleration, and the resulting acceleration values, including all uncertainties

(see Sections II and III and Exploration 2).

Brief analytical summary of the model used to plot the data (see Section II).

Plot of the relevant data in Excel; you decide what is relevant and why (see Exploration 3).

Using Excels linear regression features, and guided by the directions in the above

explorations, interpret the slope of your plot and extract the value of the moment of

inertia and its uncertainty. Explain any auxiliary equations and calculations.

Interpret the y-intercept in your plot and extract the value of the frictional torque and

its uncertainty. Explain any auxiliary equations and calculations.

Discussion (suggested minimum)

o Cite and briefly compare the result from the Excel linear regression to the calculation in

Exploration 1. Do the results agree? If there are discrepancies, speculate on the possible

reasons.

o Discuss the results of comparing the moments of inertia of the three sub-disks. Is there

anything surprising about your findings?

o Briefly summarize the interpretation of your plots y-intercept value and state whether

the value makes sense and why.

o The linear regression is an unweighted linear least squares fit of the data, and does not

take into account, for example, the uncertainty in individual acceleration measurements.

How might the uncertainty in the acceleration measurements apply, or not, to the

overall uncertainty analysis? What is your expectation as to the match between the least

squares value for the slope and the experimental uncertainty in the acceleration values?

o What did you learn or discover from this lab?

o How could you improve your results in terms of the quality of your measurements or

the available equipment?

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