Lab 1: Standing Waves

A standing wave is a pattern which results from the interference of two or more waves traveling in the same medium.  All standing waves are characterized by positions along the medium which are standing still.  Such positions are referred to as nodes.  Standing waves are also characterized by antinodes.  These are positions along the medium where the particles oscillate about their equilibrium position with maximum amplitude.  Standing wave patterns are always characterized by an alternating pattern of nodes and antinodes.

Transverse waves on a string

Standing waves of many different wavelengths can be produced on a string with two fixed ends, as long as an integral number of half wavelengths fits into the length of the string.  For a standing wave on a string of length L with two fixed ends 

L = n(λ/2),  n = 1,2,3,... .

For a string the speed of the waves is a function of the mass per unit length μ = m/L of the string and the tension F in the string.

In this lab, waves on a string with two fixed ends will be generated by a string vibrator.  The waves will  all have a frequency of 120 Hz.  Their wavelength is given by λ = v/f.  Since the frequency is fixed, the wavelength of the waves can only be changed by changing the speed of the waves.  Students will adjust the tension in the string until 1, 2, or 3 half wavelength of a wave with f = 120 Hz fit into the length of the string.  Then 120 Hz is a natural frequency of the string and the vibrator drives the string into resonance.  The amplitude increases and the standing waves can easily be observed.


Given: f = 120 Hz.
Measure: tension F, for λ = L/2, L, 2L/3
Calculate: the mass per unit length μ of the string, using v = λf,  μ = F/v2.

Equipment needed:

Experiment:  Standing waves on a string

Data Analysis:

Calculate the mass per unit length μ of the string using μ = F/v2.  Average the values obtained from your three measurements and estimate the uncertainty in this average value.


Open Microsoft Word and prepare a short report.

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Laboratory 1 Report