You are on page 1of 2


Activity 15

Make and market a seismometer
Make and test a simple seismometer as shown in Figure A15.1. When you have made and tested your instrument, imagine that you represent a company that markets seismometers. Prepare a sales presentation to convince a client that your instrument has features that will make it work well.

In this activity you are going to investigate what happens when a mass–spring seismometer is driven from the outside and forced to vibrate at a frequency which is generally other than its natural frequency. The apparatus is shown in Figure A15.1.

Scale Pointer

Clamped vibrator

Signal generator

m Fixed mass

Figure A15.1 Simple seismometer

Experimental procedure
Your task is to demonstrate what happens when a seismometer is driven at or near its natural frequency. First determine the natural frequency, f0, by timing free vibrations. You might need to adjust the overall vertical length (including string) so that any pendulum oscillations don’t confuse what is happening: there can be some spectacular effects, but rather complicated to analyse. f0 is likely to be around 1 Hz. Set the signal generator to a frequency significantly below f0 and wait for the motion of the mass to settle down. It probably will not have a very big amplitude and you will probably find that the amplitude itself rises and falls (known as a beat) – this is a feature of this forced oscillation (you will need to allow for the beat when you take measurements). Gradually increase the driving frequency and observe the behaviour of the mass. Allow some settling down time between each frequency adjustment. Study qualitatively the pattern of the beat and the size of the maximum amplitude.

Sheet 1 of 2

What frequency does this occur at? Adjust the amplitude of the vibrator (on the signal generator output). Why is this a good term?) Extension: damping It is possible to arrange for the motion to be damped (literally) by having the mass move in a tall water container. Repeat the amplitude–frequency measurements for this damped case. (At resonance. would you need a larger mass. if necessary. to reduce the size of the frequency step so that you can ‘fine tune’ the amplitude. If you have carried out the extension work on damping. say how you would achieve this (for example. If you want to change its natural frequency. in your role as a sales rep. Now. and amplitude. when near the violent region. Look at the relative motion of the top and bottom of the spring at frequencies either side of resonance and describe qualitatively how the mass–spring system is responding to the forcing. A. Locate the maximum as precisely as you can. say whether it would be better to arrange for the oscillations of a seismometer to be damped.Activity 15 There will be a frequency at which the beat disappears and the oscillations become very violent (very large amplitude with possibly uncontrolled bouncing). the system is sometimes described as a ‘mechanical amplifier’. Plot amplitude A (vertical axis) against driving frequency fd. Take a sequence of measurements of driving frequency. • How is your apparatus designed (or how could it be designed) to take account of the range of frequencies of seismic waves? Sheet 2 of 2 161 . The oscillations should be sufficiently slow to see what is actually happening. Consider the following points: • Should a seismometer be designed so that its natural frequency is much higher or much lower than any earthquake frequency? Demonstrate your answer with the apparatus. Adjust the frequency in appropriately-sized steps (use your trial run to guide you) – you may find it useful. Return to the original (low-frequency) setting. Study note BLD This looks ahead to Part 3 of the chapter. (Because of the beat you will need to decide whether to measure maximum amplitude or the mean – it doesn’t matter which as long as you are consistent). comment on whether or not it is desirable to have a seismometer whose natural frequency is close to the frequency of seismic waves. Draw the A–fd graph on the same axes as the undamped case. Consult Part 1 of the chapter to find the typical frequency range of seismic waves. to finish at a frequency roughly as much above f0 as the initial frequency was below it. but so that you can still measure as large an amplitude as possible. Comment on any important differences between the two. prepare to give a brief talk and demonstration on the principle of the seismometer to your client. to reduce the violence of the oscillations. and adjust the amplitude at resonance so that the mass stays in the water. Evaluation and marketing From your results and observations. Hence decide whether you would need to alter f0 for your seismometer in order to make it a good instrument. using your apparatus as a model. or a stiffer spring?). Take the frequency through this region. fd. doesn’t hit the bottom and the surrounding area stays reasonably dry. Devise some suitable way of doing this.