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Quarter and Half Wave Plates

This experiment involves the use of plane-polarised laser light to investigate the properties of quarter wave and half wave plates. Students measure the angular dependence of the transmitted intensity in order to determine the positions of the transmission axes of a quarter wave plate and further use this information to produce circularly polarised light from the incident linearly polarised radiation. The phase shift of 180 degrees induced by a half wave plate is also investigated in a similar manner. The major learning outcome is expected to be an understanding of the way in which altering the transmission of an electromagnetic wave along one of the axes of wave plate devices can change the polarisation of the propagated light.

Quarter and Half Wave Plates – Experiment Overview (PDF)

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Fabry-Perot Etalons

This experiment is taken by second year physics students and requires three hours to complete. This experiment involves observing interference fringes created by a laser that is shone through a Fabry-Perot etalon interferometer. The laboratory notes lead students from the known condition for interference maxima to a general equation for the radii of interference fringes (rp) as a function of laser wavelength (l), fringe number (p), distance between etalon faces (d) and the focal length of the viewing lens (f).

Fabry-Perot Etalons – Experiment Overview (PDF)

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Measuring the acceleration due to gravity

This experiment allows students to measure the value of the acceleration due to gravity by means of a simple pendulum and also to ascertain the uncertainty in their measurement of g. It is a simple experiment but it highlights how the theory of the pendulum can be verified by a doing an experiment with a simple pendulum.

Measuring the acceleration due to gravity – Experiment Overview (PDF)

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Charge and Electric Forces

In this practical the students investigate electric charges and forces using a Van De Graaff generator and a range of everyday objects. The practical spans two laboratory sessions, with the first dedicated to studying some basic properties of charge, and designing their own experiment to test Coulomb’s Law; and the second implementing their experiment and analysing the results.

Charge and Electric Forces – Experiment Overview (PDF)

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Build a Telescope

The telescope has been an important scientific tool ever since Galileo used it to view the moons of Jupiter in 1610. In its simplest form, a telescope consists of an objective lens and an eyepiece lens. The objective lens forms an image within the telescope which is enlarged by the eyepiece. In this experiment you will be asked to construct and characterise a simple telescope. The experiment takes place over two sessions – in the first session you’ll examine the critical parameters that determine the magnification and quality of the image that is formed. In the second session you will build an optimised telescope and devise methods to determine its theoretical and experimental magnification.

Build a Telescope – Experiment Overview (PDF)

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The Simple Pendulum

Measure the period of a simple pendulum and determine a value for g, the acceleration due to gravity. To investigate how the period of the simple pendulum varies with mass of the pendulum bob and the amplitude of the swing.

The Simple Pendulum – Experiment Overview (PDF)

Power output of solar panels

This experiment investigates the characteristics of solar panels as a non-linear source of electrical energy. The experiment also investigates the conditions under which solar panels give maximum power for a given amount of light shining on it. The aims of the experiment are to expose students to non-linear circuits and develop their familiarity and skills in circuits, data collection, representation and analysis. This experiment is an effective learning tool because it is relevant to contemporary energy source concerns.

Power output of solar panels – Experiment Overview (PDF)

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