Uploaded by esmallbanda


The objective of this experiment is to determine the spring constant of a springs using
the static method (Hooke’s Law); and
the dynamics method (oscillations)
Spiral spring, pointer, mass hanger, rigid stand and clamp, metre rule, slotted masses, triple
balance and stop watch.
When an external force 𝐹𝑒𝑥𝑡 is applied to a spring (or indeed any elastic material), a force is
developed within the spring that attempts to restore the original configuration of the spring in
accordance with Newton’s third law. This force is called the restoring force. Robert Hooke
showed that if the spring is stretched out by an amount 𝑥, then the restoring force is linearly
proportional to 𝑥, provided that the elastic limit of the spring is not exceeded. This remarkable
behavior of the spring is known as Hooke’s law and is expressed by the equation
𝐹𝑟 = −𝑘𝑥
Eqn (1)
where the proportionality constant 𝑘 is called the spring (stiffness) constant. As the name
suggests, the spring constant is a property of a spring that represents the ‘stiffness’ of that
particular spring. The negative sign in Equation (I) signifies the fact that the restoring force is in
a direction that is opposite to the applied force.
In the first part of this experiment, we are going to verify Hooke’s law by demonstrating that the
magnitude of the restoring force (given by Equation 1) equals that of the applied external force.
In our case, the external force will be provided by the force of gravity due to a mass 𝑚 attached
to the end of the spring. The direction of this force is (of course) downwards, and it must counter
the restoring force of the spring which acts upwards. At the equilibrium point (where the two
forces balance), we have
𝐹𝑔 − 𝐹𝑟 = 0
Eqn (2)
by Newton’s third law. This can be written as
𝑚𝑔 − 𝑘𝑥 = 0
𝑚𝑔 = 𝑘𝑥
Eqn (3)
Equation (3) tells us that a plot of the applied force (mg) against the extension 𝑥 would give us a
straight line whose intercept is zero and slope the spring constant 𝑘. This method of determining
the spring constant is called the static method because the measurements are performed in a
static situation, when the mass is in equilibrium (not moving).
Consider a situation where the mass 𝑚 is in equilibrium, i.e., the upwards restoring force is equal
to the downwards weight. If now the spring is stretched beyond the equilibrium point by pulling
it down slightly and then releasing it, the mass will accelerate upward because the restoring force
due to the spring is larger than the force of gravity pulling down. After release it will pass
through the equilibrium point and continue to move upward. Once above the equilibrium
position, gravity will start to exceed the force pulling upward due to the spring and acceleration
will be directed downward. The result of this is that the mass will oscillate around the
equilibrium position. The oscillations will proceed with a characteristic period, T, which is the
time it takes for the spring to complete one oscillation, or the time necessary for the mass to
return to the point where the cycle starts repeating. As we shall see in class, the period of
oscillation depends on the spring constant and the total attached mass via,
Eqn (4)
Note here that 𝑚 is the total mass of the hanger, applied load and the spring. Squaring
Equation (4) both sides gives
Eqn (5)
Thus a graph of 𝑇2 against 𝑚 gives 4𝜋2⁄𝑘 as slope, from which can be obtained. This method of
determining the spring constant is called the dynamic method, since measurements are done
when the spring is in ‘dynamic equilibrium’. Note here that 𝑚 is the total mass of the load
including the mass hanger and spring.
Measure and record the total mass of the mass hanger and spring using a triple balance. Then set
up the apparatus as shown in Figure 1
PART 1 :
Note the reading of the pointer when no mass is attached to the spring.
Add slotted masses to the mass hanger, recording the position of the pointer at
each stage. You may decide what increments of masses are suitable to give you enough
data points (not less than five). Make sure not to load the spring beyond its elasticity limit.
Consult your lab assistants whenever unsure.
The extension 𝑥 at each stage is obtained by subtracting the zero-load reading
(obtained in Step 1) from the pointer reading when a certain load has been mounted.
After reaching the maximum desirable load, start removing masses, taking the
pointer readings at each stage as described in Step 3.
Record your readings in a table such as the one shown below:
Zero-load reading: ……………… (cm)
S/N Load m (g)
Pointer Readings
Load (cm)
Load (cm)
Extension of Spring
Load (cm)
Load (cm)
Extension 𝑥
Plot a graph of extension 𝑥 versus load 𝐹𝑔 = 𝑚𝑔, choosing the correct origin and scales.
Determine the gradient (slope) of the graph and use this to calculate the spring constant 𝑘. Give
the value of the calculated 𝑘 in S.I. units.
NOTE: Since every measurement you make is not exact, but has some experimental uncertainty,
do not expect your data points to lie exactly on a smooth curve or a perfectly straight line.
Question : Explain why it is necessary to take the readings while both increasing and decreasing
the load.
PART 2 :
1. Remove the pointer from the mass hanger.
2. Add a load 𝑚 to the hanger and set it in vertical vibration by giving it a small additional
downward displacement. Obtain the time taken for 10 vibrations three times.
3. Repeat the measurements with different loads. You are free to choose the loads that you
feel are suitable. However, the loads should be in such a way that the coils do not touch when
the spring is compressed during the oscillations.
4. Record your readings in a table such as the one shown below.
Mass of hanger + spring: M =………….g
Load m
Time for 10
Total Load oscillation
(m + M) (g)
t1 (s)
t2 (s)
complete Mean time Period
for 10
oscillations T (s)
T2 (s2)
t3 (s)
Plot a graph of T2 on the y-axis against (M + m) on the x-axis and determine the slope. Does the
graph confirm your theoretical expectations?
Compare the values of 𝑘 found in parts (i) and (ii), and comment.