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Torsional Oscillator

Newsletter 1 - Appropriate from Freshman to Advanced Lab
Newsletter 2 - Magnetic Torque in Action
Newsletter 3 - Damped and Driven
Newsletter 4 - Torsional Oscillator and the Electronic Kilogram

Conceptual Introduction – Torsional Oscillator

Torsional Oscillator Brochure
Lab Courses:
Classical Mechanics
Modern Physics
Sound and Waves

Simple Harmonic Oscillation Made Visible, Tangible, Accessible, Measurable
Torsional Oscillator
  • fully instrumented test-bed for investigating simple harmonic motion
  • variable torsion constant and rotational inertia
  • non-contact precision analog sensors provide angular position and velocity
  • damping options range from constant to velocity dependent and include a v2-friction regime
  • magnetic torque drive accommodates arbitrary drive waveforms
  • resonant behavior in time and frequency domains with "Q" ranging from less than 1 to more than 100
  • "intellectual phase space" ranges from rotational kinematics and rotational dynamics to general oscillations and waves
  • appropriate from the freshman to advanced lab, from mechanics to advanced electronics

Few systems in physics have wider applicability than the Simple Harmonic Oscillator (SHO). At every level of their education, from first-year undergraduate to advanced graduate training, students will find something valuable and applicable in the physics of the Simple Harmonic Oscillator.

  • In introductory mechanics as Hooke's-Law oscillation problems;
  • In analysis of the LCR system in circuit theory;
  • In every normal-mode problem in mechanics and electromagnetism;
  • In the quantum-mechanical SHO problem in
    • one dimensional particle and molecular vibrations,
    • quantization of each mode of the electromagnetic field;
  • As a model for the resonant excitation of atoms or nuclei by external fields.

We have chosen a system and a set of parameters that are optimized for both seeing and learning. Quite deliberately, we have chosen a macroscopic and plainly visible mechanical system, which oscillates with periods on the order of one second so that students can see the behavior of the system on a human time scale.

We have even provided hands-on involvement. When applying a torque by fingertip students learn quite tangibly, the phase relationship required between the system's angular position and the applied torque in order to achieve resonant excitation.