AQA GCSE Physics

Revision Notes

2.1.4 Required Practical: Investigating Resistance

Required Practical 3: Investigating Resistance

Equipment List

  • Resolution of measuring equipment:
    • Metre ruler = 1 mm
    • Ammeter = 0.01 A
    • Voltmeter = 0.1 V

Resistance of the Length of a Wire at a Constant Temperature

  • The aim of this experiment is to investigate how the length of a wire at a constant temperature affects the resistance of electrical circuits

Variables:

  • Independent variable = Length of resistance wire, L
  • Dependent variable = Resistance, R
  • Control variables:
    • Potential difference of the power supply
    • Temperature of the wire

Method

Resistance of the lenght of wire apparatus

  1. Set up the apparatus by connecting two crocodile clips to the thin resistance wire a distance of 10 cm apart and setting the power supply to 1.5 V
  2. Connect the wire, using the clips, to the rest of the circuit
  3. Record the potential difference from the voltmeter and current from the ammeter
  4. Move the clips in 10 cm intervals further apart
  5. Take new measurements from the voltmeter and ammeter for each length reading
  6. Continue until the crocodile clips are a length of 1 m apart
  • An example table of results might look like this:

Analysis of Results

  • Calculate the resistance of each length of wire using the equation:

Resistance Equation

  • Where:
    • R = resistance (Ω)
    • V = potential difference (V)
    • I = current (A)
  • Plot a graph of resistance (on the y-axis) against length (on the x-axis) and draw a line of best fit
  • An example graph might look like:

  • The graph should be a straight line through the origin with a positive correlation
    • This means that the longer the piece of wire, the higher the resistance
  • In other words, the resistance is directly proportional to the length of the wire

Combinations of Resistors in Series and Parallel

  • The aim of this experiment is to investigate how combinations of resistors in series and parallel affect the total resistance in electrical circuits

Variables:

  • Independent variable = Number of resistors
  • Dependent variable = Total resistance, R
  • Control variables:
    • Potential difference of the power supply
    • Temperature of the resistors

Method

Series and parallel resistor combinations apparatus

  1. Connect the circuit shown in figure 1 with a battery of 4 V, first with one resistor (R1) with the voltmeter connected in parallel and ammeter in series
  2. Close the switch and record the reading on the voltmeter and ammeter
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for just the second resistor (R2)
  4. Open the switch and add connect both R1 and R2 in series as shown in figure 2, connecting the voltmeter in parallel to both resistors
  5. Close the switch and record the new readings on the voltmeter and ammeter
  6. Open the switch and arrange R1 and R2 now in parallel shown in figure 3
  7. Close the switch and record the readings on the voltmeter and ammeter
  • An example table of results might look like this:

Analysis of Results

  • Similar to the previous experiment, the resistance for each voltage and current reading is determined by the equation:

Resistance Equation

  • The results should show that in series:
    • The resistance of the combined resistors is equal to the sum of the two individual resistances
    • This is because the electrons flow through just one path through both resistors, so the current does too
  • The results should show that in parallel:
    • The resistance of the combined resistors is less than the sum of the two individual resistances
    • This is because the electrons are split between the different paths (or ‘loops’) but the resistors still have the same potential difference across them

Evaluating the Experiment

Systematic Errors:
  • The first crocodile clip (connected to the circuit, not the wire) must start at 0 on the ruler
    • Otherwise, this could cause a zero error in your measurements of the length
  • Both the ammeter and voltmeter should be checked to start from 0
Random Errors:
  • Only allow small currents to flow through the wire
    • This keeps the temperature of the wire constant, so it doesn’t change its resistance
  • The current should be switched off between readings so its temperature doesn’t change its resistance
  • Repeat the experiment by reducing the length of the wire 10 cm each time down to a length of 10 cm
  • Add more resistors in series and parallel to calculate the effect on the combined resistance

Safety Considerations

  • When there is a high current flowing through a thin wire, the wire will become very hot
    • Make sure never to touch the wire directly when the circuit is switched on
  • Switch off the power supply right away if burning is smelled
  • Make sure there are no liquids close to the equipment, as this could damage the electrical equipment if spilled

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Ashika graduated with a first-class Physics degree from Manchester University and, having worked as a software engineer, focused on Physics education, creating engaging content to help students across all levels. Now an experienced GCSE and A Level Physics and Maths tutor, Ashika helps to grow and improve our Physics resources.
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