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FOREWORD - SI UNITS...............................................................................2
2.1 MATTER..................................................................................................4 The Nature of Matter......................................................4 Chemical compounds....................................................5 states of matter..............................................................6 Changes between states...............................................7
2.2 MECHANICS...........................................................................................9
2.2.1 STATICS......................................................................................9 FORCES........................................................................9 CENTRE OF GRAVITY..................................................17 STRESS........................................................................20 PROPERTIES OF MATTER..........................................26 PRESSURE AND BUOYANCY IN LIQUIDS..................28
2.2.2 KINETICS....................................................................................30 LINEAR MOVEMENT....................................................30 ROTATIONAL MOTION.................................................35 PERIODIC MOTION......................................................36 SIMPLE THEORY OF VIBRATION, HARMONICS AND
RESONANCE..............................................................................37 VELOCITY RATIO, MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE AND
2.2.3 DYNAMICS.................................................................................41 MASS............................................................................41 MOMENTUM.................................................................43
2.2.4 FLUID DYNAMICS......................................................................50 SPECIFIC GRAVITY AND DENSITY.............................50 VISCOSITY...................................................................52
2.3 THERMODYNAMICS..............................................................................57 TEMPERATURE............................................................57 HEAT.............................................................................58 HEAT capacity...............................................................58 HEAT TRANSFER.........................................................59 VOLUMETRIC EXPANSION..........................................60 THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS...........................62
GASES 64 ISOTHERMAL AND ADIABATIC PROCESSES.............66 HEAT OF FUSION.........................................................70
2.4 OPTICS (LIGHT).....................................................................................72 SPEED OF LIGHT.........................................................72 LAWS OF REFLECTION AND REFRACTION...............72 FIBRE OPTICS..............................................................77
2.5 WAVE MOTION AND SOUND.................................................................79 WAVE MOTION.............................................................79 Sound............................................................................85

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

Page 1

The study of physics is important because so much of life today consists of
applying physical principles to our needs. Most machines we use today require a
knowledge of physics to understand their operation. Complete understanding of
many of these principles requires a much deeper knowledge than required by the
JAA and the JAR-66 syllabus for the licences.
A number of applications of physics are mentioned in this chapter and, whenever
you have learned one of these, you will need to be aware of the many different
places in aeronautics where the application is used. Thus you will find that the
laws, formulae and calculations of physics are not just subjects for examination
but the main principle on which aircraft are flown and operated.
Physics is the study of what happens in the world involving matter and energy.
Matter is the word used to described what things or objects are made of. Matter
can be solid, liquid or gaseous. Energy is that which causes things to happen.
As an example, electrical energy causes an electric motor to turn, which can
cause a weight to be moved, or lifted.
As more and more 'happenings' have been studied, the subject of physics has
grown, and physical laws have become established, usually being expressed in
terms of mathematical formula, and graphs. Physical laws are based on the
basic quantities - length, mass and time, together with temperature and electrical
current. Physical laws also involve other quantities which are derived from the
basic quantities.
What are these units? Over the years, different nations have derived their own
units (e.g. inches, pounds, minutes or centimetres, grams and seconds), but an
International System is now generally used - the SI system.
The SI system is based on the metre (m), kilogram (kg) and second (s) system.
base units
To understand what is meant by the term derived quantities or units consider
these examples; Area is calculated by multiplying a length by another length, so
the derived unit of area is metre2 (m2). Speed is calculated by dividing distance
(length) by time , so the derived unit is metre/second (m/s). Acceleration is
change of speed divided by time, so the derived unit is:

m s s m s

(metre per second per second)

Some examples are given below:

Basic SI Units



Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


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Electric Current (I)
Derived SI Units
derived units

Degree Celsius (C)



Square Metre
Cubic Metre
Kg / Cubic Metre
Metre per second
Metre per second per second
Kg metre per second


Some physical quantities have derived units which become rather complicated,
and so are replaced with simple units created specifically to represent the
physical quantity. For example, force is mass multiplied by acceleration, which is
logically kg.m/s2 (kilogram metre per second per second), but this is replaced by
the Newton (N).
Examples are:




Note also that to avoid very large or small numbers, multiples or sub-multiples
are often used. For example;
1,000,000 =
1/1000,000 =


is replaced by
is replaced by
is replaced by
is replaced by



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Matter is defined as anything that occupies space. Matter is made of tiny
particles called molecules which are too small to be seen with the naked eye,
but they can be observed with an electron microscope. When a molecule is
viewed under an electron microscope it can be seen to consist of even smaller
particles called atoms and can be seen to be in continuous motion.
Atoms are the smallest particles of matter that can take part in a chemical
reactions but they are themselves constructed of even smaller atomic particles.
The Structure of an Atom
A hydrogen atom is very small indeed (about 10 10 m in diameter), but if it could
be magnified sufficiently it would be seen to consist of a core or nucleus with a
particle called an electron travelling around it in an elliptical orbit.
The nucleus has a positive charge of electricity and the electron an equal
negative charge; thus the whole atom is electrically neutral and the electrical
attraction keeps the electron circling the nucleus. Atoms of other elements have
more than one electron travelling around the nucleus, the nucleus containing
sufficient positive charges to balance the number of electrons.


- Electrons


P - Protons


N - Neutrons

1x P

Figure 1.


Atomic Structure

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The Nucleus
The particles in the nucleus each carrying a positive charge are called protons.
In addition to the protons the nucleus usually contains electrically neutral particles
called neutrons. Neutrons have the same mass as protons whereas electrons
are very much smaller, only of the mass of a proton.
There are currently 111 known elements or atoms. Each has an identifiable
number of protons, neutrons and electrons. Every atom has its own atomic
number, as well as its own atomic mass (refer to Fig.2). The atomic number is
calculated by the element number of protons, and the atomic mass by its number
of nucleons, (protons and neutrons combined).
Figure 2.

Atomic no.








An extract from the periodic table.

The neutron simply adds to the weight of the nucleus and hence the atom. There
is no simple rule for determining the number of neutrons in any atom. In fact
atoms of the same kind can contain different numbers of neutrons. For example
chlorine may contain 18 20 neutrons in its nucleus.
The atoms are chemically indistinguishable and are called isotopes. The weight
of an atom is due to the protons and neutrons (the electrons are negligible in
weight), thus the atomic weight is virtually equal to the sum of the protons and
the neutrons.
The electron orbits define the size or volume occupied by the atom. The
electrons travel in orbits which are many times the diameter of the nucleus and
hence the space occupied by an atom is virtually empty! The electrical properties
of the atom are determined by how tightly the electrons are bound by electrical
attraction to the nucleus. CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS
When atoms bond together they form a molecule. Generally there are two types
of molecules. Those molecules that consist of a single type of atom, for example
the hydrogen normally exists as a molecule of two atoms of hydrogen joined
together and has the chemical symbol H2. A molecule that consists of a single
element is called a monatomic molecule. All other molecules are made up of two
or more atoms and are known as chemical compounds.
When atoms bond together to form a molecule they share electrons. Water (H2O)
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is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. In the example of
H2O the oxygen atom has six electrons in the outer or valence shell (refer to Fig.
3). As there is room for eight electrons, one oxygen atom can combine with two
hydrogen atoms by sharing the single electron from each hydrogen atom.


Water molecule = H2O

2 x hydrogen atoms plus 1 x oxygen





Figure 3.


A water molecule. STATES OF MATTER

Matter is composed of several molecules. The molecule is the smallest unit of
substance that exhibits the physical and chemical properties of the substance.
Furthermore, all molecules of a particular substance are exactly alike and unique
to that substance.
All matter exists in one of three physical states, solid, liquid and gas. A physical
state refers to the condition of a compound and has no affect on a compound's
chemical structure. So ice water and steam are all H2O, and the same type of
matter appears in all these states.
All atoms and molecules in matter are constantly in motion. This motion is
caused by the heat energy in the material. The degree of motion determines the
physical state of the matter.
As well as being in continuous motion, molecules also exert strong electrical
forces on each other when they are close together. The forces are both attractive
and repulsive. Attractive forces hold matter together: repulsive forces cause
matter to resist compression. All the internal forces in matter are summarised in
the kinetic theory, which also explains the existence of the solid, liquid and
gaseous states.

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Solid. A solid has definite mass, volume and shape.

The kinetic theory states that in solids the molecules are close together and the
attractive and repulsive forces between neighbouring molecules balance: the
molecules vibrate about a fixed position.
Liquid. A liquid has definite mass and volume but takes the shape of its
The molecules in a liquid are slightly farther apart than in a solid but close
enough together to have a definite volume. As well as vibrating they are free to
move over short distances in all directions.
Gas. A gas has definite mass but takes the volume and shape of its
The molecules in a gas are much farther apart in a gas than in solids or liquids.
They dash around at very high speeds in the space available to them and it is
only when they impact on the walls of their container that the molecular forces
In general it is possible for matter that exists in one state to be changed into
either of the other two states. But how can this be done?
Well, ice, water and water vapour are different forms of one type of matter, i.e.
H2O molecules. The obvious difference in each of these states is the
temperature and it is this that determines which of the three states matter will
Any increase in the temperature of a solid substance will increase the energy of
its molecules. The increased energy enables the molecules to overcome each
others attractive forces, until eventually they are able to move freely as in a liquid.
Further increases in temperature give the molecules even more energy,
eventually they are able to leave the surface of the liquid in the form of a gas.
The opposite is true if we take a gas and reduce its temperature. In this case the
reduced temperature robs the molecules of some of their energy causing them to
first slow down and form a liquid and finally to become trapped by the attractive
forces of neighbouring molecules and forming a solid.

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

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Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

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If a Force is applied to a body it will cause that body to move in the direction of
the applied force, a force has both magnitude (size) and direction. Normally
more than one force acts on an object. An object resting on a table is pulled
down by its weight W and pushed back upwards by a force R due to the table
supporting it. Since the object is stationary the forces must be in balance, i.e. R
= W, see figure 4.


Downward force of gravity

on the glass

Downward force of gravity


Push force

Constant speed
(in a straight line)

Frictionless table


Upward push of the table

Upward push of the

table on the glass


Downward force of gravity


Constant speed
(in a straight line)

Push force

force of friction
table with friction
Upward push of the table
Figure 4

Forces in action

Friction and air resistances are the forces that cause an object to come to rest
when the force causing the movement stops, figure 4(c). If these forces were
absent, then a object, once set in motion would continue to move with constant
speed in a straight line, figure 4(b). This is summarised by Newtons first law of

A body stays at rest, or if moving it continues to move with constant

speed in a straight line, unless an external forces acts upon it.

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If the forces acting on an object are not in balance, i.e. there is a net (resultant)
force, they cause a change of motion, i.e. the body accelerates or decelerates.
This is known as Newtons second law of motion:
Force applied to the object
Mass of the object
Acceleration of the object
The unit of Force is the Newton. One Newton is defined as the force which gives
a mass of 1 kg an acceleration of 1 m/s2, i.e. 1 N = 1 kg m/s2.
Note. If the forces applied to an object are in balance and so there is no change
in motion there may be a change in shape. In that case internal forces in the
object (i.e. forces between neighbouring atoms) balance the external forces. This
is important when analysing the behaviour of materials.
Quantities are thought of as being either scalar or vector. The term scalar means
that the quantity possesses magnitude ONLY and examples include mass, time,
temperature, length etc. These quantities may only be represented graphically to
some form of scale

Temperature Scale, 10mm = 2o

Vector quantities possess both magnitude AND direction, and if either change the
vector quantity changes. Vector quantities include force, velocity and any quantity
formed from these.
A force is a vector quantity, and as such possesses magnitude and direction. The
most convenient method is to represent the force by means of a vector diagram
as shown in figure 5.
10 units

Figure 5 Vector diagram representation of a force.

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Two or more forces may act upon the same point so producing a resultant force.
If the forces act in the same straight line the resultant is found by simple
subtraction or addition, see figure 6.





Figure 6



Resultant forces in a straight line

If the forces are do not act in a straight line then they can be added together
using the parallelogram law.
If two forces acting at a point are represented in the size and direction by the
sides of a parallelogram drawn from the point, their resultant is represented in
size and direction by the diagonal of the parallelogram drawn from the point, see
figure 7.
Spring balance
(0-10 N)




Figure 7. Two spring balances, P and Q, are use to exert an angular pull on a
point O. The actual force exerted on O, the resultant, is equal in size and
direction to the diagonal of the parallelogram formed from P and Q, where the
length of P and Q represent the strength of the force applied.
The magnitude of the resultant force can be derived either graphically or
The graphical method
To use the graphical method will require a scale drawing of forces in question,
see worked example.

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Worked example
Find the resultant of two forces of 4.0 N and 5.0 N acting at an angle of 450 to
each other.
Using a scale of 1.0 cm = 1.0 N, draw parallelogram ABCD with AB = 5.0 cm, AC
= 4.0 N and angle CAB = 450, see figure 8.

4.0 N
5.0 N

Figure 8
By the parallelogram law, the diagonal AD represents the resultant in magnitude
and direction; it measures 8.3 cm and angle BAD = 210. Therefore the resultant
is a force of 8.3 N acting at an angle of 210 to the force of 5.0 N.
Triangle of Force
Considering figure 8 it can be seen that CD = AB. It is therefore possible to find
the resultant to our two forces by drawing a triangle of forces, using the known
forces as two sides and the resultant as the third. See figure 9.
5.0 N

4.0 N
8.3 N

Figure 9

A triangle of forces

If a third force, equal in length but opposite in direction to the resultant is added
to the resultant, it will cancel the effect of the two forces. This third force would
be termed the Equilibrium, see figure 10.
5.0 N

4.0 N

8.3 N


Figure 10
Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

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Polygon of forces
If three or more forces are acting on a point then the overall resultant may be
resolved by firstly applying the parallelogram law to two of the forces, F 1 and F 2
below produce R 1. The next force, F 3, is then resolved with the first resultant,
R 1, to produce a new resultant R 2, thus producing a polygon of forces. This
procedure can be repeated any number of times.




Mathematical solution



Horizontal component

A single force can be seen to consist of a horizontal component and a vertical

component, which are at right angles to each other.
If the angle between the vector of the force and the horizontal component is
then, trigonometry tells us that:
The vertical component
= Force x sin
The horizontal component = Force x cos
So if there are several vectors each can be resolved into two components.
e.g. F1 in direction 1, gives F1 sin 1, and F1 cos 1
F2 in direction 2, gives F2 sin 2, and F2 cos 2
F3 in direction 3, gives F3 sin 3, and F3 cos 3
and so on
Once all the forces have been resolved their components can then be added




together to give the sin and cos components of the resultant.

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FR sin R

= F1 sin 1 + F2 sin 2 + F3 sin 3

FR cos R

= F1 cos 1 + F2 cos 2 + F3 cos 3


= (FR sin R)2 + (FR cos R)2

FR cos R

R = tan -1 (sin R/cos R)


FR sin R

For a complicated series of vectors it is possible that an ambiguity may arise in
the direction of the resultant, this can be resolved by inspection of the sign of the
sin positive

tan positive

All positive

cos positive

sin and cos of R.

Worked example: three forces acting on a mass.
First resolve each force into its vertical and horizontal components.
Components of force F1 :

Vertical component
Horizontal component = 4 N

Components of force F2 :

Vertical component
= 5 X sin 530 = 4 N
Horizontal component = 5 X cos 530 = 3 N

F1 = 4 N


F2 = 5 N

Components of force F3 :

F3 = 3 N

FR = 9.9 N

Vertical component
Horizontal component = 0

Components of resultant FR : Vertical component

Horizontal component = 4 + 3 + 0 = 7 N
= 72 + 72 = 49 + 49 = 98 = 9.9 N
R = tan -1 7/7 = 45o


It has already been stated that if a force were applied to a body, it would cause
the body to move (accelerate) in the direction of the applied force.
Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016
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What if the body cannot move in a straight line, suppose the it is free to rotate
about some point. The applied force will then cause a rotation. An example is a
door. A force applied to the door cause it to open or close, rotating about the
What is important to realise, is that the force required to move the door is
dependent on how far from the hinge the force is applied. Similarly it is easier to
loosen a nut with a long spanner than a short one.
So the turning effect of a force is a combination of the magnitude of the force and
its distance from the point of rotation. It is measured by multiplying the force by
its perpendicular distance of the line of action of the force from the fulcrum. The
turning effect is termed the Moment of a Force.
In SI units, Newton metres = Newton x metres
Hinge (fulcrum)

Direction of


In the diagram above a force of 5 N is applied at a distance of 3 m from the

fulcrum, therefore:
= 15 N m
When several forces are concerned, equilibrium concerns not just the forces, but
moments as well. If equilibrium exists, then clockwise (positive) moments are
balanced by anticlockwise (negative) moments.




When two equal but opposite forces are present, whose lines of action are not
coincident, then they cause a rotation.



F =5 N

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Together, they are termed a Couple, and the moment of a couple is equal to the
magnitude of a force F, multiplied by the distance between them.
Where more than one force acts on a body, the total turning effect is the algebraic
sum of the moments of the forces. For example, suppose it is necessary to
calculate the resultant moment of a pivot acting on a bell crank lever, refer to
diagram below.

= 100 mm
= 20 mm
= 20 mm



10 N


Resultant Moment Calculation

The force of 10 N tends to rotate the lever clockwise, whereas the other two
forces tend to rotate the lever anti-clockwise. Clearly, the 10 N force is in
opposition to the other two and must therefore be regarded as negative.
Total moment about O
= 3 (AO cos 30) + 5 (OC) - 10 (OB sin 60)
= 3 (0.100 cos 30) + 5 (0.02) - 10 (0.04 sin 60)
= 0.2598 + 0.100 - 0.3464
= 0.0134 N m in an anti-clockwise sense
Note that the direction as well as the magnitude of the total moment is given, and
that the unit of a moment is the product of the unit of force, the Newton (N) and
the unit of length, the metre (m).

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


Consider a body as an accumulation of many small masses (molecules), all
subject to gravitational attraction. The total weight, which is a force, is equal to
the sum of the individual masses, multiplied by the gravitational acceleration
(g = 9.81 m/s2).
W = mg
The diagram shows that the individual forces all act in the same direction, but

have different lines of action. There must be datum position, such that the total
moment to one side, causing a clockwise rotation, is balanced by a total moment,
on the other side, which causes an anticlockwise rotation. In other words, the
total weight can be considered to act through that datum position.

Clockwise moments equal anticlockwise moments

If the body is considered in two different positions, the weight acts through two
lines of action, W1 and W2 and these interact at point G, which is termed the
Centre of Gravity (c of g).

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A 2-dimensional body (one of negligible thickness) is termed a lamina. Therefore

the body has area only and no volume. The point G is then termed a centroid. If
a lamina is suspended from a point P1, the centroid G will hang vertically below
P1. If suspended from P2, G will hang below P2. Position G, and therefore the
c of g is at the intersection as shown. Hence, the Centre of Gravity is the point
through which the Total Mass of the body may be considered to act.
c of g



Position 1

Position 2

A regular lamina, such as a rectangle, has its centre of gravity at the intersection
of the diagonals.

A triangle has its centre of gravity at the intersection of the medians, i.e. at the
midpoint of each side.

If a lamina is irregular in shape but can be shown to be composed of a several

regular shapes, the centre of gravity of the lamina can be deduced by splitting it
into its regular sections, calculating the moments of these areas about a given
datum, and then equating the sum of these moments to the moment of the
composite lamina.

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Expressed as an algebraic formula,

W, X, + W2 X2 + W3 X3 = (W1 + W2 + W3) x G
Where G is the position of the centroid, with respect to the datum.
W, X, W 2 X 2 W 3 X 3

W1 W 2 W 3
This is the principle behind Weight and Balance.
For a 3-dimensional body, the centre of gravity can be determined practically by
several methods, such as by measuring and equating moments, and thus is done
when calculating Weight and Balance of aircraft.
As already stated the centre of gravity of a solid object is the point about which
the total weight appears to act. Or, put another way, if the object is balanced at
that point, it will have no tendency to rotate. In the case of hollow or irregular
shaped objects, it is possible for the centre of gravity to be in free space and not
within the objects at all. The most important application of centre of gravity for
aircraft mechanics is the weight and balance of an aircraft.

C of G

= Centre of Gravity symbol

If an aircraft is correctly loaded, with fuel, crew and passengers, baggage, etc. in
the correct places, the aircraft will be in balance and easy to fly. If, for example,
the baggage has been loaded incorrectly, making the aircraft much too nose or
tail heavy, the aircraft could be difficult to fly or might even crash.
It is important that whenever changes are made to an aircraft, calculations MUST
be made each time to ensure that the centre of gravity is within acceptable limits
set by the manufacturer of the aircraft. These changes could be as simple as a
new coat of paint, or as complicated as the conversion from passenger to a
freight carrying role.
Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

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Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

Page 20 STRESS
When an engineer designs a component or structure he needs to know whether it
is strong enough to prevent failure due to the loads encountered in service. He
analyses the external forces and then deduces the forces or stresses that are
induced internally.
Notice the introduction of the word stress. Obviously a component which is twice
the size in stronger and less likely to fail due an applied load. So an important
factor to consider is not just force, but size as well. Hence stress, symbol sigma
, is load (force) divided by area (size).
Stress =

External force force in newtons

Area of applied force in metre


Force in newtons
(units = Newton metre-2, N m-2).
area in metre 2

For example if an area of 5 m2 is loaded with a force of 25 N 5 m then the area

will be subjected to a stress of,

Force in newtons
area in metre

25 N

= 5 N m-2.

Components fail due to being over-stressed, not over-loaded.

So long as the external forces acting on the ball, i.e. atmospheric pressure, do


The forces involved in

a table tennis ball that
is sealed from
atmospheric pressure

not exceed the internal forces then the ball will maintain its shape.
There are five different types of stress in mechanical bodies.


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Tension describes the force that tends to pull an object apart. Flexible steel cable
used in aircraft control systems is an example of a component that is in designed
to withstand tension loads. Steel cable is easily bent and has little opposition to
other types of stress, but when subjected to a purely tensile load it performs
exceptionally well.

Tension forces

Compression is the resistance to an external force that tries to push an object
together. Aircraft rivets are driven with a compressive force. When compression
stress is applied to a rivet, the rivet firstly expands until it fills the hole and then
the external part of the shank spreads to form a second head, which holds the
sheets of metal tightly together.

Force from rivet gun

Rivet head
Rivet shank
Reaction block

Force from
reaction block

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A torsional stress is applied to a material when it is twisted. Torsion is actually a
combination of both tension and compression. For example, when an object is
subjected to a torsional stress, tensile stresses operate diagonally across the
object whilst compression stresses act at right angles to the tensile stress.
An engine crankshaft is a component whose primary stress is torsion. The
pistons pushing down on the connecting rods rotate the crankshaft against the
opposition, or resistance of the propeller. The resulting stresses attempt to twist
the crankshaft.

Torsional Stresses on a Shaft

In flight, the force of lift tries to bend an aircraft's wing upward. When this
happens the skin on the top of the wing is subjected to a compressive force,
whilst the skin below the wing is pulled by a tension force. When the aircraft is on
the ground the force of gravity reverses the stresses. In this case the top of the
wing is subjected to tension stress whilst the lower skin experiences compression




Tensions on an Aircraft Wing in Flight

The third stress that combines tension and compression is the shear stress,
which tries to slide an object apart. Shear stress exists in a clevis bolt when it is
used to connect a cable to a stationary part of a structure. A fork fitting, such as
drawn below, is fastened onto one end of the cable, and an eye is fastened to the
structure. The fork and eye are held together by a clevis bolt.
When the cable is pulled there is a shearing action that tries to slide the bolt
apart. This is a special form of tensile stress inside the bolt caused by the fork
pulling in one direction and the eye pulling in the other.
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Page 23

Clevis Bolt

Shear Stress on a Clevis Bolt

Stress is a force inside an object caused by an external force. If the outside force
is great enough to cause the object to change its shape or size, the object is not
only under stress, but is also strained.
If a length of elastic is pulled, it stretches. If the pull is increases, it stretches
more; if the pull is reduced, it contracts.
Hookes law states that the amount of stretch (elongation) is proportional to the
applied force.
The degree of elongation or distortion has to be considered in relation to the
original length. the graph below shows how stress varies with stress when a
steel wire is stretched until it breaks.


A limit
Hookes law




From point 0 to B the deformation of the wire is elastic.

A is the limit within the wire obeys Hookes law.
B is the elastic limit. Beyond this point deformation becomes plastic.
C is the yield point. Beyond it very little force is needed to produce a large
D is the point where if the force were removed the wire would be left permanently
E is the point were the wire breaks, it is say to have reached its ultimate tensile
The degree of distortion then has to be the actual distortion divided by the
original length (in other words, elongation per unit length). This is termed Strain,
symbol (epsilon). Note that strain has no units, it is a ratio and is then
expressed as a percentage.

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Example 1
Tensile strain

Compressive strain



= x 100%

= x 100%

Tensile strain
If a cable of 10 m length is loaded with a 100 kg weight so that it is stretched to
11 m, what is the strain placed on the cable?

10 m
10 = 0.1 x 100 % = 10 %

Example 2
Compressive strain
A 25 cm rod is subjected to a compressive load so that its length changes by 5
mm. How much strain is the rod under when loaded?
5 mm is equivalent to 0.5 cm, therefore
0.5 cm
= L = 25 cm = 25 = 0.02 x 100 % = 2 %

Strain occurs in each of the stresses already mentioned in the previous section.
However, the strain involved with shearing and torsional stresses is not
expressed in the same manner above. Both these stresses give rise to shearing
action when one layer of material moves relative to another in the direction of the
applied force. In shear strain this a straight motion in torsional strain it is a
rotational motion.
Shearing occurs when the applied load causes one 'layer' of material to move
relative to the adjacent layers etc.
When a riveted joint is loaded, it is a shear stress and shear strain scenario. The
rivet is being loaded, ultimately failing as shown.


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As already mentioned torsional stress is a form of shear stress resulting from a
twisting action.

If a torque, or twisting action is applied to the bar shown, one end will twist, or
deflect relative to the other end.
Obviously, the twist will be proportional to the applied torque. Torque has the
same effect and therefore the same unit as a Moment, i.e. Newton metres.
If the bar is considered as a series of adjacent discs, what has happened is that
each disc has twisted, or moved relative to its neighbour, etc, etc. Hence, it is a
shearing action.
The shear strain is equal to the angular deflection multiplied by radius r divided
by the overall length L,

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


The spreading of a substance of its accord is called diffusion and is due to
molecular action, e.g. a smell, whether pleasant or not, travels quickly from its
source to your nostrils where it is detected.
Diffusion occurs in liquids and gases but not in solids. In these two states the
molecules are free to move, it is this property that allows diffusion to occur.
A needle, though made of steel which is denser than water, will float on a clean
water surface. This suggests that the surface of a liquid behaves as if it is
covered with an elastic skin that is trying to shrink.
This effect is called surface tension and it explains why small liquid drops are
always nearly spherical, i.e. a sphere has the minimum surface area for a given
volume. The surface tension can be reduced if the liquid is contaminated,
adding a detergent to the water will cause our needle to sink.
In a liquid, the molecules still partially bond together. This bonding force is known
as surface tension and prevents liquids from expanding and spreading out in all
directions. Surface tension is evident when a container is slightly over filled.

Surface Tension.


The force of attraction between molecules of the same substance is called
cohesion, that between molecules of different substances is called adhesion. For
example, the adhesions of water to glass is greater than the cohesion of water.
Water spilt on glass wets it by spreading out into a thin film. By contrast, water
on wax forms small spherical drops, this time the cohesion of water is greater
than the adhesion of water to wax. This fact is used in the waterproofing of
waxed garments.
If a glass tube of small bore is dipped into water , the water rises u the tube a few
centimetres. The narrower the tube the greater the rise . The adhesion between
the glass and the water exceeds the cohesion of the water molecules, the
meniscus curves up , and the surface tension causes the water to rise. The
effect is called capillary action.
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When selecting a material for a job need to know how it will behave when a force
acts upon it, i.e. what are its mechanical properties.
Strength. A strong material requires a strong force to break it. The strength of
some materials depends on how the force is applied. For example, concrete is
strong when compressed but weak when stretched, i.e. in tension.
Stiffness. A stiff material resists forces which try to change its shape or size. It is
not flexible.
Elasticity. An elastic material is one that recovers is original shape and size after
the force deforming it has been reformed. A material that does not recover, but is
permanently deformed is plastic.
Ductility. Materials that can be rolled into sheets, drawn into wires or worked into
other useful shapes, without breaking are ductile. Metals owe much of their
usefulness to this property.
Brittleness. A material that is fragile and breaks easily is brittle, e.g. glass and
cast iron are brittle.

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


Previous topics have introduced forces or loads, and then considered stress,
which can be thought of as intensity of load. Stress is the term associated with
solids. The equivalent term associated with fluids is pressure,
so pressure = or
p = .
Pressure can be generated in a fluid by applying a force which tries to squeeze it,
or reduce its volume. Pressure is the internal reaction or resistance to that
external force. It is important to realise that pressure acts equally and in all
directions throughout that fluid. This can be very useful, because if a force
applied at one point creates pressure within a fluid, that pressure can be
transmitted to some other point in order to generate another force. This is the
principle behind hydraulic (fluid) systems, where a mechanical input force drives
a pump, creating pressure which then acts within an actuator, so as to produce a
mechanical output force.

In this diagram, a force F1 is input to the fluid, creating pressure, equal to

throughout the fluid. This pressure acts on area A2, and hence an output force F2
is generated.
If the pressure P is constant, then = and if A2 is greater than A1, the output
force F2 is greater than F1.
A mechanical advantage has been created, just like using levers or pulleys. This
is the principle behind the hydraulic jack.
But remember, you don't get something for nothing; energy in = energy out or
work in = work out, and work = force x distance. In other words, distance moved
by F1 has to be greater than distance moved by F2.
Pressure is the measurement of a force exerted on a given area. In the SI
system pressure is expressed in Pascals (Pa) being derived from force per unit
area (Nm -2). Atmospheric pressure is usually measured in milli-bars (mb) or
pounds per square inch (psi).
At sea level standard atmospheric pressure equals 1013.2 milli-bars or 14.69 psi
at 15C.
Archimedes Principle states that when an object is submerged in a liquid, the
object displaces a volume of liquid equal to its volume and is supported by a
force equal to the weight of the liquid displaced. The force that supports the
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object is known as the liquid's up-thrust.

For example, when a 100 cubic centimetre (cm 3) block weighing 1.5 kilograms
(kg) is attached to a spring scale and lowered into a full container of water, 100
cm 3 of water overflows out of the container. The weight of 100 cm 3 of water is
100 grams (g), therefore the up-thrust acting on the block is 100 g and the spring
scale reads 1.4 kg.
If the object immersed has a relative density that is less than the liquid, the object
displaces its own weight of the liquid and it floats. The effect of up-thrust is not
only present in liquids but also in gases. Hot air balloons are able to rise
because they are filled with heated air that is less dense than the air it displaced.

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In previous topic, we have seen that a force causes a body to accelerate
(assuming that it is free to move). Words such as speed, velocity, acceleration
have been introduced, which do not refer to the force, but to the motion that
ensues. Kinematics is the study of motion.
When considering motion, it is important to define reference points or datums (as
has been done with other topics). With kinematics, we usually consider datums
involving position and time. We then go on to consider the distance or
displacement of the body from that position, with respect to time elapsed.
It is now necessary to define precisely some of the words used to describe
Distance and time do not need defining as such, but we have seen that they must
relate to the datums. Distance and time are usually represented by symbols (s)
and (t) respectively.

rate of change of displacement or position

distance travelled
time taken
where v represents speed.
A word of caution - this assumes that the speed is unchanging (constant). If
not, the speed is an average speed.
If you run from your house to a friends house and travel a distance of 1500m in
500 s, then your average speed is

= 3 ms-1.

Similarly, if you travel 12 km to work and the journey takes 30 minutes, your
average speed is

= 24 km h-1

Velocity is similar to speed, but not identical. The difference is that velocity
includes a directional component; hence velocity is a vector (it has magnitude
and direction - the magnitude component being speed).
If a vehicle is moving around a circular track at a constant speed, when it reaches
point A, the vehicle is pointing in the direction of the arrow which is a tangent to
the circle. At point B it's speed is the same, but the velocity is in the direction of
the arrow at B.
Similarly at C the velocity is shown by the arrow at C.
Note that the arrows at A and C are in almost opposite directions, so the
velocities are equal in magnitude, but almost opposite in direction.

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A vehicle that increases it's velocity is said to accelerate. The sports saloon car
may accelerate from rest to 96 km/h in 10s, the acceleration is calculated from:

rate of change of velocity
where a represents acceleration.
(In the above, v, represents the initial velocity, v2 represents the final velocity
during time period t).
In the case of the car, v1 = 0 kmh-1 and v2 = 96 kmh-1, therefore the rate of change
of velocity = 96.
Acceleration =

= 9.6 kmh-1s-1

Note that as acceleration = rate of change of velocity, then it must also be a

vector quantity. This fact is important when we consider circular motion, where
direction is changing.

speed is a scalar, (magnitude only)

velocity is a vector (magnitude and direction).

If the final velocity v2 is less than v1, then obviously the body has slowed.
This implies that the acceleration is negative. Other words such as
deceleration or retardation may be used. It must be emphasized that
acceleration refers to a change in velocity. If an aircraft is travelling at a
constant velocity of 600 km/h it will have no acceleration.
Various equations for motion in a straight line exist and can be used to express
the relationship between quantities.
If an object is accelerating uniformly such that:
u = the initial velocity and
v = the final velocity after a time t
a = or,
v -u
This equation can be re-arranged to make v the subject:
V = u + at equation 1
If we now consider the distance traveled with uniform acceleration.
If an object is moving with uniform acceleration a, for a specified time (t), and the
initial velocity is (u).
Since the average velocity = (u + v) and v = u + at.
We can substitute for v:
Average velocity = (u + u + at) = (2u + at) = u + at
The distance traveled s = average velocity x time = (u + at) x t, so
s = ut + at2............................... equation 2
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Using the s = average velocity x time and substituting time =

average velocity =

v -u
, and

v u

v u
v -u
v -u
By cross multiplying we obtain
2as = v2 - u2
and finally:

we have distance,


v2 = u2 + 2as .............................equation 3
These are the three most common equations of linear motion.

Examples on linear motion.

An aircraft accelerates from rest to 200 km/h in 25 seconds. What is it's

acceleration in m s-2?
Firstly we must ensure that the units used are the same. As the question
wants the answer given in m/s2, we must convert 200 km into metres and
hours into seconds.
200 km = 200,000 m and 1 hour = 60 x 60 = 3,600 s, so
using the equation a =


= 55.55 m s-1

v -u
we have,

55.55 - 0
= 2.22 m s-2

so the aircraft has accelerated at a rate of 2.22 m s-2

If an aircraft slows from 160 km/h to 10 km/h with a uniform retardation of 5 m s-2,
how long will take?
First km hr-1 to m sec-1

160000 = 2666.66 = 44.44 m sec-1


10000 = 166.66 = 2.78 m sec-1


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using v = u + at, 44.44 = 2.78 +5t


44.44 2.78
= 8.332 sec

What distance will the aircraft travel in the example of retardation in example 2?
We can use either
s = ut + at2



v 2 - u2

Using the latter,


2.77 2 - 4.44 2
2u - s

7.67 1971.4


= 196.37 m

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In exactly the same way as force vectors were added (either graphically or
mathematically), so velocity vectors can be added. A good (aeronautical)
example is the vector triangle used by pilots and navigators when allowing for the
effects of wind.
Here the pilot intended to fly from A to B (the vector AB represents the speed of

the aircraft through the air), but while flying towards B the effect of the wind
vector BC was to 'blow' the aircraft off-course to C. So how is the pilot to fly to B
instead of C?
Obviously, the answer is to fly (head) towards D, so that the wind blows the

aircraft to B (see diagram).

Note that this is a vector triangle, in which we know 4 of the components;
i.e. the wind magnitude and direction
the air speed (magnitude)
the track angle (direction)
The other two components may therefore be deduced, i.e. the aircraft heading
and the aircraft ground-speed. Note that the difference between heading and
track is termed drift. The aircraft ground-speed, (i.e. the speed relative to the
ground) is used to compute the travelling time.
This is a particular aeronautical example. More generally, if there are two vectors
v1 and v2, then we can find relative velocity.
Note the difference in terminology and direction of the arrows. V2 relative to v1

means that to an observer moving at velocity V1, the object moving at velocity V2
appears to be moving at that relative velocity. (V1 relative to V2 is the apparent
movement of V1 relative to V2).

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


Rotational motion means motion involving curved paths and therefore change of
direction. As with linear - motion, it may analysed mathematically or graphically
and both types of motion are very similar in this respect, but employ different
symbols. Again, only cases of constant acceleration are considered here, and
cases involving linear translation and rotation are definitely ignored!
Firstly, consider the equation representing rotation. They are equivalent to those
linear equations of motion.
v2 = v1 + at
s = (v1 + v2)t
s = v1t + at2

2 = 1 + t
2 = (1 + 2)t
= 1t + t2

Where = distance (angular displacement)

1, 2=
initial and final angular velocity

angular acceleration
N.B. It is important to realise that the angular units here must employ
measurements in radians.
Consider a mass moving at a constant speed v, but following a circular path. At

one instant it is at position A and at a second instant at B.

Note that although the speed is unchanged, the direction, and hence the velocity,
has changed. If the velocity has changed then an acceleration must be present.
If the mass has accelerated, then a force must be present to cause that
acceleration. This is fundamental to circular motion.
The acceleration present = , where v is the (constant) speed and r is the radius

of the circular path.

The force causing that acceleration is known as the Centripetal Force. Now force
is equal to mass times acceleration, therefore centripetal force = m
, or
mv 2
, and acts along the radius of the circular path, towards the centre.

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More students are more familiar with the term Centrifugal than the term
Centripetal. What is the difference? Put simply, and recalling Newton's 3rd Law,
Centrifugal is the equal but opposite reaction to the Centripetal force.

This can be shown by a diagram, with a person holding a string tied to a mass
which is rotating around the person.
Tensile force in string acts inwards to provide centripetal force acting on mass.
Tensile force at the other end of the string acts outwards exerting centrifugal
reaction on person.
(Note again - cases involving changing speeds as well as direction are beyond
the scope of this course) PERIODIC MOTION
Some masses move from one point to another, some move round and round.
These motions have been described as translational or rotational.
Some masses move from one point to another, then back to the original point,
and continue to do this repetitively. The time during which the mass moved away
from, and then returned to its original position is known as the time period and
the motion is known as periodic.
Many mechanisms or components behave in this manner - a good example is a
If a pendulum is displaced from its stationary position and released, it will swing
back towards that position. On reaching it however, it
will not stop, because its inertia carries it on to an equal
but opposite displacement. It then returns towards the
stationary position, but carries on swinging etc, etc.
Note that the time period can be measured from a any
position, through to the next time that position is
reached, with the motion in the original direction


If the mass is displaced from its original position and

released, the force in the spring will act on the mass so as to
return it to that position. It behaves like the pendulum, in
that it will continue to move up and down.

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The resulting motion, up and down, can be plotted against time and will result in
a typical graph, which is sinusoidal. SIMPLE THEORY OF VIBRATION, HARMONICS AND RESONANCE

Analysis of oscillating systems such as the pendulum or the spring-mass will
show that they often obey simple but strict laws. For example, the instantaneous
acceleration is given by the term -2x.
a = -2x
(This basically states that the acceleration is proportional to the displacement
from the neutral (undisturbed) position, and in the opposite sense to the direction
of the velocity)
The constant is the frequency of the oscillation.
The period of the oscillation = .
Such motion is often referred to as Harmonic motion and analysis reveals the
pattern of such motion is sinusoidal (beyond the scope of this course).
Vibration Theory is based on the detailed analysis of vibrations and is essentially
mathematical, relying heavily on trigonometry and calculus, involving sinusoidal
functions and differential equations.
The simple pendulum or spring-mass would according to basic theory, continue
to vibrate at constant frequency and amplitude, once the vibration had been
started. In fact, the vibrations die away, due to other forces associated with
motion, such as friction, air resistance etc. This is termed a Damped vibration.
If a disturbing force is re-applied periodically the vibrations can be maintained
indefinitely. The frequency (and to a lesser extent, the magnitude) of this
disturbing force now becomes critical.
Depending on the frequency, the amplitude of vibration may decay rapidly (a
damping effect) but may grow significantly.
This large increase in amplitude usually occurs when the frequency of the
disturbing force coincides with the natural frequency of the vibration of the system
(or some harmonic). This phenomenon is known as Resonance. Designers
carry out tests to determine these frequencies, so that they can be avoided or
eliminated, as they can be very damaging.

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


A machine is any device which enables a force (the effort) acting at one point to
overcome another force (the load) acting at some other point. A lever is a simple
machine , as are pulleys, gears, screws, etc.
In the diagram below a lever lifts a load of 100 N through 0.50 m when an effort is
applied at the other end. The effort can be taken from the principle of moments
about the pivot O as effort just begins to raise the load.
clockwise moment = anticlockwise moment
effort x 2 m = load x 1m = 100 N x 1 m

effort x = 100 N m/2 m = 50 N

the lever has enabled an effort (E) to raise a load (L) twice as large, i.e. it is a
force multiplier, but E has had to move twice as far as L. the lever has a
mechanical advantage (MA) of 2 and a velocity ratio (VR) of 2 where
MA =


and VR =

distance moved by E
distance moved by L

load 100 N
0.5 m



effort 50 N

Machines make work easier and transfer energy from one place to another. No
machine is perfect and in practice more work is done by the effort on the machine
than is done by the machine on the load. Work measure energy transfer and so
we can also say that the energy input into a machine is greater than its energy
output. Some energy is always wasted to overcome friction and some parts of
the machine itself.
energy output
work done on load
efficiency = energy input = work done by effort =
X 100%

this is expressed as a percentage and is always less than 100%.

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A lever is a device used to gain a mechanical advantage. In its most basic form,
the lever is a seesaw that has a weight at each end. The weight on one end of
the seesaw tends to rotate it anti-clockwise, whilst the weight on the other end
tends to rotate it clockwise.
Each weight produces a moment or turning force. The moment of an object is
calculated by multiplying the object's weight by the distance the object is from the
balance point or fulcrum.
A lever is in balance when the algebraic sum of the moments is zero. In other
words, a 10 kilogram weight located 2 metres to the left of the fulcrum has a
negative moment (anti-clockwise), 20 kilogram metres. A 10 kilogram weight
located 2 metres to the right of the fulcrum has a positive moment (clockwise), of
20 kilogram metres. Since the sum of the moments is zero, the lever is
First Class Lever
This lever has the fulcrum between the load and the effort. An example might be
using a long armed lever to lift a heavy crate with the fulcrum very close to the
crate, the effort E is applied a distance L from the fulcrum .
The load (resistance) R, acts at a distance I from the fulcrum. The calculation
is carried out using the formula,
ExL= IxR
A First Class Lever


Although less effort is required to lift the load, the lever does not reduce the
amount of work done. Work is the result of force and distance, and if the two
items from both sides are multiplied together, they are always equal.

Second Class Lever

Unlike the first-class lever, the second-class lever has the fulcrum at one end of
the lever and effort is applied to the opposite end. The resistance or weight, is
typically placed near the fulcrum between the two ends.
A typical example of this lever arrangement is the wheel-barrow, refer to diagram
below. Calculations are carried out using the same formula as for the first classclass lever although, in this case, the load and the effort move in the same

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Page 40

Second Class Lever

Third Class Lever

In aviation, the third-class lever is primarily used to move the load a greater
distance than the effort applied. This is accomplished by applying the effort
between the fulcrum and the resistance. The disadvantage of doing this, is that a
much greater effort is required to produce movement. A example of a third-class
lever is a landing gear retraction mechanism (refer to diagram below) where the
effort is applied close to the fulcrum, whilst the load, (the wheel/brake assembly)
is at the opposite end of the lever.

Third Class Lever

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Contrary to popular belief, the weight and mass of a body are not the same.
Weight is the force with which gravity attracts a body. However, it is more
important to note that the force of gravity varies with the distance between a body
and the centre of the earth. So, the farther away an object is from the centre of
the earth, the less it weighs. The mass of an object is described as the amount of
matter in an object and is constant regardless of its location. The extreme case of
this is an object in deep space, which still has mass but no weight.
Another definition sometimes used to describe mass is the measurement of an
object's resistance to change its state of rest, or motion. This is seen by
comparing the force needed to move a large jet, as compared with a light aircraft.
Because the jet has a greater resistance to change, it has greater mass. The
mass of an object may be found by dividing the weight of an object by the
acceleration of gravity which is 9.81 m/s2
Mass is usually measured in kilograms (kg) or, possibly, grams (gm) for small
quantities and tonnes for larger, The Imperial system of pounds (Ibs.) can still be
found in use in aviation, for calculation of fuel quantities, for example.
Force has been described earlier, force is the vector quantity representing one or
more other forces, which act on a body. In this section we will see the effect of
forces when they produce, or tend to produce, movement or a change in
Inertia is the resistance to movement, mentioned earlier when discussing the
mass of objects. This means that if an object is stationary it remains so, and if it is
moving in one direction, it will not deviate from that course. A force will be needed
to change either of these states; the size of the force required is a measure of the
inertia and the mass of the object.
Work is done when a force moves. Consider the case where a man applied a
force to move a small car. The initial force that he applies overcomes the cars
inertia and it moves. The work that the man has done is equal to:
Work done = force x distance moved in the direction of the force.
If the man continues to push the car a farther distance then the distance moved
will increase and so he will have done more work.
The unit of work is the Newton metre (Nm) or the joule, where
1 joule = the work done when a force of 1 Newton is applied through a distance
of 1 metre
Recalling the man pushing the car, it was stated that the greater the distance the
car was pushed, the greater the work done (or the greater the energy expended).
But yet again, another factor arises for our consideration. The man will only be
capable of pushing it through a certain distance within a certain time. A more
powerful man will achieve the same distance in less time. So, the word Power is
introduced, which includes time in relation to doing work.
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work done
time taken
The S.I. unit of power is the Watt (W), and it is the rate of work done when 1 joule
is achieved in one second

Power =

(N.B. One horsepower is the equivalent of 746 Watts)

Engines are often rated as being of a certain brake horsepower. This refers to the
method by which their horsepower is measured. The engine is made to do work
on a device known as a dynamometer or 'brake'. This loads the engine output,
whilst a reading of the work being done can be observed from the machine's
This is a similar measurement to brake horsepower, except that the
measurement is usually taken at the output shaft of a turbo-propeller engine. The
power being produced at the shaft is what will be delivered to the propeller, when
it is installed to the engine.
Now clearly the man pushing the car will become progressively more tired the
further he pushes the car, the more work he does the more energy he expends.
Energy can be thought of as stored work. Alternatively, work is done when
Energy is expended. The unit of Energy is the same as for Work, i.e. the Joule.
Energy can exist or be stored in a number of different forms, and it is the change
of form that is normally found in many engineering devices.
Energy can be considered in the following forms, electrical, chemical, heat,
pressure, potential, kinetic - and there are others. The units for all forms of
energy is the Joule.
Energy due to the mechanical condition or the position of a body is called
potential energy.
The potential energy of a raised body is easily calculated. If it falls, the force
acting will be its weight and the distance acted through; its previous height.
Hence, the work done equals the weight times the height. This is also the
potential energy held.
PE = mg x h


NB: Weight equals mass times gravity.

Another form of energy is that due to the movement of particles of some kind.
This can be the water flowing in a river, driving a mill or turbine. The moving air
driving a wind turbine which is producing electricity; or hot gasses in a jet engine,
driving the turbine, are both forms of energy due to motion, which is known as
kinetic energy.
Kinetic energy is energy of motion. The kinetic energy of an object is the energy
it possesses because of its motion. The kinetic energy of a point mass m is given
KE = mv2

Note: m is in kg and v is in ms-1

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The kinetic energy of an object arises from the work done on it. This can been
seen from the example of using a constant net force to accelerate a mass from
rest to a final velocity.

Work done on mass = Fd = mad = m x

x t = mv2 = kinetic energy

One important principle underlies the conversion of one form to another. It is
known as the Conservation of Energy, which is:
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can be changed from one form to
This allows scientific equations to be derived, after investigation and analysis
involving physical experiments.
This also suggests something most of us suspect there is no such thing as a
free lunch. Put another way, you dont get anything for nothing, and very often,
you get less out than you put in. (So somewhere losses have occurred, this is
to be expected). So a comparison between work out and work in is obviously a
measure of the systems efficiency.
Efficiency =
It is usually expressed as a percentage, and so will clearly always be less than

Heat is defined as the energy in transit between two bodies because of a

difference in temperature. If two bodies, at different temperatures, are
bought into contact, their temperatures become equal. Heat causes
molecular movement, which is a form of kinetic energy and, the higher the
temperature, the greater the kinetic energy of its molecules.
Thus when two bodies come into contact, the kinetic energy of the
molecules of the hotter body tends to decrease and that of the molecules
of the cooler body, to increase until both are at the same temperature. MOMENTUM
Momentum is a word in everyday use, but its precise meaning is less well-known.
We say that a large rugby forward, crashing through several tackles to score a
try, used his momentum. This seems to suggest a combination of size (mass)
and speed were the contributing factors.
In fact, momentum = mass x velocity.

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Newton's Second Law shows that the effect of a force on a body is to bring
about a change in momentum in a given time. This provides a useful
method of measuring a force, but such a measurement becomes difficult if
the time taken for the change is very small. This would be the case if a
body was subjected to a sudden blow, shock load or impact. In such
cases, it may well be possible to measure the change in momentum with
reasonable accuracy.
The time duration of the impact force may be in doubt and, in the absence
of special equipment, may have to be estimated. Forces of this type,
having a short time duration, are called impulsive forces and their effect
on the body to which they are applied, that is the change of momentum
produced, is called the impulse.
If the impact duration is very small, the impulsive force is very large for any
given impulse or change in momentum. This can be shown by substitution
into equations.
The principle of the Conservation of Momentum states:
When two or more masses act on each other, the total momentum of the
masses remains constant, provided no external forces, such as friction,
Study of force and change in momentum lead to Newton defining his Laws of
Motion, which are fundamental to mechanical science.
The First law states a mass remains at rest, or continues to move at constant
velocity, unless acted on by an external force.
The Second law states that the rate of change of momentum is proportional to
the applied force.
The Third law states if mass A exerts a force on mass B, then B exerts an equal
but opposite force on A.
What causes momentum to change? If the initial and final velocities of a mass
are u and v,
then change of momentum = mv - mu
= m (v - u).
Does the change of momentum happen slowly or quickly?
The rate of change of momentum = m
Inspection of this shows that force F (m.a) = m , so, a force causes a change in
The rate of change of momentum is proportional to the magnitude of the force
causing it.
Suppose a mass A overtakes a mass B, as shown below in illustration (a). On
impact, (b), the mass 6 will be accelerated by an impulsive force delivered by A,
whilst the mass A will be decelerated by an impulsive force delivered by B.
Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016
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In accordance with Newton's Third Law, these impulsive forces, F , will be equal
and opposite and must, of course, act for the same small period of time. After the








impact, A and B will have some new velocities vA, and vB. By calculation, it can
be proven that the momentum before the impact equals the momentum after the
Moment of Inertia considers the effect of mass on bodies whose moment is
rotational. This is important to engineers, because although vehicle move from
on place to another (i.e. the moment of the vehicle is translational) many of its
components are rotating within it.

Consider two cylinders, of equal mass, but different dimensions, capable of being
It will be easier (require less torque) to cause the LH cylinder to rotate. This is
because the RH cylinder appears to have greater inertia, even through the
masses are the same.
So the moment of inertia () is a function of mass and radius. Although more
detailed study of the exact relationship is beyond the scope of this course, it can
be said that the M of I is proportional to the square of the radius.

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This topic covers gyroscopes and the allied subject of the balancing of rotating
masses. Both of these topics have direct application to aircraft operations.
Gyroscopes are used in several of an aircrafts instruments, which are vital to the
safety of the aircraft in bad weather. There are many different components that
will not operate correctly if they are not perfectly balanced. For example wheels,
engines, propellers, electric motors and many other components must run with
perfect smoothness.
The gyroscope is a rotor having freedom of motion in one or more planes at right
angles to the plane of rotation. With the rotor spinning, the gyroscope will
possess two fundamental properties:
1. Gyroscopic rigidity or inertia
2. Gyroscopic precession
A gyroscope has freedom of movement about axes BB and CC, which are at 90
to the axis of rotation AA .


Gyroscope Freedom of Movement

This maintains the axis of rotation constant in space. So if a gyroscope is
spinning in free space and is not acted upon by any outside influence or force, it
will remain fixed in one position. This facility is used in instruments such as the
artificial horizon, which shows the location of the actual horizon outside, even
when the aircraft is in poor visibility.
The mounting frame can be rotated about axes AA and BB. The gyroscope will
remain fixed in space in the position it was set, and this is known as rigidity. If
the frame is rotated about axis CC, the gyroscope will rotate until the axis of
gyroscopic rotation is in line with the axis of the frame rotation and is known as
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This term describes the angular change of direction of the plane of rotation of a
gyroscope, as a result of an external force. The rate of this change can be used
to give indications such as the turning rate of an aircraft.
The diagram below shows a gyroscope, which has now been rotated about axis
BB. It can be seen that the axis of rotation AA is now vertical and, in line with
axis CC, which is the principle of precession. Gyroscopes will precess to allow
the plane of rotation of the rotor to coincide with the base.

Gyroscope Precession
To determine the direction a gyroscope will precess, follow these guidelines.
1. Apply a force so that it acts on the rim of the rotor at 90.
2. Move this force around the rim of the rotor so that it moves through 90 and in
the same direction as the rotor spins.
3. Precession will move the rotor in the direction that will result in the axes of
applied force and of rotation coinciding.
4. For a constant gyroscopic speed, the rate of precession is proportional to the
applied force. The opposite also applies, so for a given force the rate of
precession is inversely proportional to rotor speed.

Determining Precession Direction

Balancing of Rotating Masses
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Perhaps the most common of all the systems encountered in mechanical

engineering practice is the rotating shaft system. If the centroid of any mass
mounted on a rotating shaft, is offset from the axis of rotation, then the mass will
exert a centrifugal force on the shaft. This force is directly proportional to the
square of the speed of rotation of the shaft, so that, even if the eccentricity is
small, the force may be considerable at high speeds. Such a force will tend to
make the shaft bend, producing large stresses in the shaft and causing damage
to the bearings as it does so.
A further undesirable effect would be the inducement of sustained vibrations in
the system, its supports and the surroundings. This situation would be intolerable
in an aircraft, so that some attempt must be made to eliminate the effect of the
unwanted centrifugal force.
The eccentricity of the rotating masses cannot be removed, as they are either a
result of the design of the mechanism, such as a crankshaft, or are due to
unavoidable manufacturing imperfections. The problem is solved, or at least
minimised, by the addition of balance weights, whose out of balance centrifugal
force is exactly equal and opposite to the original out of balance force. A
common example of this is the weights put on motor car wheels to balance them,
which makes the car much easier to drive at high speed.
Friction is that phenomenon in nature that always seems to be present and acts
so as to retard things that move, relative to things that are either stationary or
moving slowly. How large that frictional force is depends on the nature of the two
surfaces of the object concerned. Rough surfaces generally produce more
friction than smooth surfaces, and some materials are naturally 'slippery'. Friction
can operate in any direction, but always acts in the sense opposing motion.
The diagram shows a body (mass m) on an inclined plane. As the angle of the
plane () is increased, the body remains stationary, until at some particular value
of , it begins to move down the plane. This is because the frictional force (F)
opposing motion has reached its maximum value.

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At this maximum value, the force opposing motion
Fmax = mg sin ,
and the normal reaction between the body and the plane
R = mg cos .

= tan

This ratio (tan ) is termed the Coefficient of Friction. It is generally considered in

mechanics to have a value less than 1, but some materials have a 'stickiness'
associated with them which exceeds this value.
Note also that cases occur where static friction (friction associated with stationary
objects) is greater than running friction (where objects are now in motion).
A useful example is in flying-control systems, where engineers have to perform
both static and running friction checks.

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Fluid is a term that includes both gases and liquids; they are both able to flow.
We will generally consider gases to be compressible and liquids to be


The density of a substance is its mass per unit volume. The density of solids and
liquids varies with temperature, and the density of a gas varies with both
temperature and pressure. The symbol for density is the Greek symbol Rho ()
To find the density of a substance, divide its mass by its volume, which will give
you the mass per unit volume, or density.
Density () =
For example, the liquid that fills a certain container has a mass of 756 kilograms.
The container is 1.6 metres long, 1.0 metre wide and 0.75 of a metre deep and
we want to find the liquids density. The volume of the container is 1.6 x 1.0 x
0.75 = 1.2 m3 and the density is

= 630 kg m -3

As the density of solids and liquids vary with temperature, a standard

temperature of 4C is used when measuring the density of each. Although
temperature changes do not change the mass of a substance, they do change
the volume through thermal expansion and contraction. This volume change
means that there is a change in the density of the substance.
When measuring the density of a gas, temperature and pressure must be
considered. Standard conditions for the measurement of gas density is
established at 0C and a pressure of 1013.25 milli-bars (Standard atmospheric
RELATIVE DENSITY (formerly specific gravity)
It is often necessary to compare the density of one substance with that of
another. For this reason, a standard is needed from which all other materials can
be compared. The standard when comparing the densities of all liquids and
solids is water at 4C, and the standard for gases is air.
Relative density is calculated by comparing the weight of a definite volume of
substance with an equal volume of water. The following formula can be used to
find the relative density, of liquids and solids.
Relative Density =

mass of any volume of a substance

mass of equal volume of water

The same formulas are used to find the density of gases by substituting air for
water. As relative density is a ratio it has no units. For example, if a certain
hydraulic fluid has a relative density of 0.8, then 1 litre of the liquid weighs 0.8
times as much as 1 litre of water table of typical relative densities. Remember
that the relative density of both water and air is 1.

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Typical Relative Densities


Jet Fuel (JP-4)
Synthetic Oil


Carbon Dioxide

Table of Typical Relative Densities

A device called a hydrometer is used to measure the relative density of liquids.
This device has a glass float contained within a cylindrical glass body. The float
has a weight in the bottom and a graduated scale at the top. When liquid is
drawn into the body, the float displays the relative density on the graduated scale.
Immersion in pure water would give a reading of 1.000, so liquids with relative
density of less or more than water would float lower or higher than it would in
An area in aviation where this topic is of special interest is the electrolyte of
batteries, where the relative density is an indication of battery condition. Another
is aircraft fuel, as some aircraft are re-fuelled by weight, whilst others are refuelled by volume. Knowledge of the relative density of the fuel is essential in this



Fully charged


Principle of an Hydrometer

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Liquids such as water flow very easily whilst others, such as treacle, flow much
slower under the same conditions. Liquids of the type that flow readily are said
to be mobile, and those of the treacle type are called viscous. Viscosity is due to
friction in the interior of the liquid.
Just as there is friction opposing movement between two solid surfaces when
one slides over another, so there is friction between two liquid surfaces even
when they consist of the same liquid. This internal friction opposes the motion of
one layer over another and, therefore, when it is great, it makes the flow of the
liquid very slow.
Even mobile liquids possess a certain amount of viscosity. This can be shown by
stirring a container of liquid, with a piece of wire. If you continue to stir, the
contents of the container will eventually be spinning. This proves that the
viscosity of the layers immediately next to the wire have dragged other layers
around, until all the liquid rotates.
The viscosity of a liquid rapidly decreases as its temperature rises. Treacle will
run off a warmed spoon much more readily than it will from a cold one. Similarly
when tar (which is very viscous) is to be used for roadway repairs, it is first
heated so that it will flow readily.
Some liquids have such high viscosity that they almost have the same properties
as solids. Pitch, which is also used in road building, is a solid black substance. If
we leave a block of the material in one position, it will, eventually begin to spread.
This shows it to be a liquid with a very high viscosity.

Time = 0

Time = 1 hr

High Viscosity Properties of Pitch

An even more extreme case is glass. A sheet of glass stood up on end on a hard
surface, will eventually be found to be slightly thicker at the bottom of the sheet
than at the top. So although we could call glass a liquid with an exceedingly high
viscosity, we normally consider it a solid.
The viscosity of different liquids can be compared in different ways. If we allow a
fixed quantity to run out of a container through a known orifice, we can time it and
then compare this against another liquid, we can say which has the lower (or
higher) viscosity. Other more complex apparatus, is required to measure
viscosity more accurately.
The knowledge of the viscosity of a liquid, such as oil is vital. Aircraft
components such as engines and gearboxes depend on lubrication to enable
them to operate efficiently.
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The resistance to fluid flows can be divided into two general groups. Skin friction
is the resistance present on a thin, flat plate, which is edgewise on to a fluid flow.
The fluid is slowed up near the surface owing to the roughness of the surface and
it can be shown that the fluid is actually stationary at the surface.
The surface roughness has an effect on the streamlines that are away from the
surface and if the surface can be made smoother, the overall friction or drag can
be reduced.
Airflow slowed by layer below
Airflow slowed by layer below
Airflow slowed by rough surface
Airflow slowed , but not as much as above
Airflow slowed by layer above
Airflow slowed by layer above

The second form of resistance is known as eddies or turbulent airflow. This can
be demonstrated by placing the flat plate at right angles to the flow. This causes
a great deal turbulence behind the plate and a very high resistance, which is
almost entirely due to the formation of these eddies.


Turbulent Airflow or Eddies


When a fluid, liquid or gas is flowing steadily over a smooth surface, narrow
layers of it follow smooth paths that are known as streamlines. This smooth flow
is also known as laminar flow. If this stream meets large irregularities, the
streamlines are broken up and the flow becomes irregular or turbulent, as may be
seen when a stream comes upon rocks on a river bed.
The introduction of smoke into the airflow in a wind tunnels or coloured jets into
water tank experiments, makes it is possible to see these streamlines and
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When a fluid flows slowly along pipe, the flow is said to be steady and lines,
called streamlines, are drawn to represent it as in part a of the diagram below.
If the flow is very fast and exceeds a certain critical speed, the flow becomes
turbulent and the fluid is churned up. The streamlines are no longer straight and
parallel, and eddies are formed as in part b of the diagram. The resistance to
flow increases as a results.





turbulent flow

The behaviour of a fluid when an object is moving in it is similar to what occurs

when a fluid flows through a pipe.
If the object, e.g. a small sphere , moves slowly, then streamlines similar to those
in part a of the diagram below, will show the apparent motion of the fluid around
the object. It will be a steady flow. If the speed of the sphere increases, a critical
speed is reached when the flow breaks up and eddies are formed behind the
sphere as in part b, the flow becomes turbulent and the viscous drag on the
sphere increases sharply.


slow, steady

Turbulence above the

critical speed


A streamlined object has a greater critical

The critical speed can be raised by changing the shape of the object, so reducing
drag and causing steady flow to replace turbulent flow. This is called streamlining
the object and part c shows how this done for a sphere. Streamlining is
especially important in the designing of high speed aircraft and other fast moving

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All fluids are compressible, so that their density will change with pressure, but,
under steady flow conditions and provided that the changes of density are small it
is often possible to simplify the analysis of a problem by assuming the that fluid is
incompressible and of constant density. Since liquids are relatively difficult to
compress, it is usual to treat them as if they wee incompressible for all cases of
steady flow.
Gases are easily compressed and, except when changes of pressure and,
therefore, density are very small, the effects of compressibility and changes of
internal energy must be taken into account.
Static and Dynamic pressure.

In this diagram, the pressure acting on x x1 is due to the weight of the fluid (in this
case a liquid) acting downwards.
This weight W
But mass


mg (g = gravitational constant)
volume density
height cross-sectional area density

Therefore downward force

Therefore, the pressure


h..g. A. acting on A

This is the static pressure acting at depth h within a stationary fluid of density p.
This is straightforward enough to understand as the simple diagram
demonstrates, we can "see" the liquid.
But the same principle applies to gases also, and we know that at altitude, the
reduced density is accompanied by reduced static pressure.
We are not aware of the static pressure within the atmosphere which acts on our
bodies, the density is low (almost 1000 times less than water). Divers, however,
quickly become aware of increasing water pressure as they descend.
But we do become aware of greater air pressures whenever moving air is
involved, as on a windy day for example. The pressure associated with moving
air is termed dynamic pressure.
In aeronautics, moving air is essential to flight, and so dynamic pressure is
frequently referred to.
Dynamic pressure

v2 where = density, v = velocity.

Note how the pressure is proportional to the square of the air velocity.

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The Swiss mathematician and physicist Daniel Bernoulli developed a principle
that explains the relationship between potential and kinetic energy in a fluid. All
matter contains potential energy and/or kinetic energy. In a fluid the potential
energy is that caused by the pressure of the fluid, while the kinetic energy is that
caused by the fluids movement. Although you cannot create or destroy energy, it
is possible to exchange potential energy for kinetic energy or vice versa.
As a fluid enters a venturi tube, it is travelling at a known velocity and pressure.
When the fluid enters the restriction it must speed up, or increase its kinetic
energy. However, when the kinetic energy increases, the potential energy
decreases and therefore the pressure decreases. Then as the fluid continues
through the tube, both velocity and pressure return to their original values.
Bernoullis principle can be found in a carburettor and paint spray gun. Air
passing through a venturi creates a rapid drop in pressure, which enables the

Pressure and Velocity Changes in a Venturi

atmospheric pressure to force the fluid into the venturi, and out of the tube in the
form of a fine spray and the theory of flight.

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Heat is a form of energy that causes molecular agitation within a material. The
amount of agitation is measured in terms of temperature, which is a measure of
the kinetic energy of molecules.
In establishing a temperature scale, two conditions are chosen as a reference.
These are the points at which pure water freezes and boils. In the Centigrade
system the scale is divided into 100 graduated increments known as degrees ()
with the freezing point of water represented by 0C and the boiling point 100C.
The Centigrade scale was named the Celsius scale after the Swedish astronomer
Anders Celsius who first described the centigrade scale in 1742.
In 1802 the French chemist and physicist Joseph Louis Gay Loussac found that
when you increased the temperature of a gas by one degree Celsius, it expands
by 1/273 of its original volume. He reasoned that if a gas was cooled, its volume
would decrease by the same amount. So if the temperature was decreased to
273 degrees below zero, the volume of the gas would also decrease to zero, and
there would be no more molecular activity. This point is referred to absolute
On the Celsius scale absolute zero is - 273C. On the Fahrenheit scale it is
In the Fahrenheit system, water freezes at 32F and boils at 212F. The
difference between these two points is divided into 180 increments. Conversion
between temperature scales. An engineering student should be able to convert
from one temperature to another:
e.g. convert F to C Subtract 32, then multiply by
convert C to F Multiply by , then add 32
convert C to K add 273
Example 1: Convert 20C to Fahrenheit.
(20 x ) + 32 = 36 + 32 = 68 F

Example 2: Convert 15C to Kelvin

15 + 273 = 288 K

Note also that when thermodynamic principles and calculations are considered, it
is usually vital to perform these calculations using temperatures expressed in
Pure Water Boils

Pure Water Freezes

Absolute Zero
Molecular Motion








Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016



Page 58 HEAT
Heat is the exchange of thermal energy from a hot body to a cold body. When a
hot body and a cold body have contact, heat will flow from the hot body to the
cold body until they both reach thermal equilibrium (they are at the same
Heat is one of the most useful forms of energy because of its direct relationship
with work. When an aircrafts brakes are applied, the kinetic energy of the
moving aircraft is changed into heat energy by the rubbing action of the brake
friction material against the brake discs. This slows the wheels and produces
additional friction between the wheels and the ground, which, finally slows the
There are a number of different units used in the relationship between heat and
work. The SI system uses the Joule (J), and the Imperial system, the British
thermal unit (Btu), whilst a third unit, the calorie (cal), is also still in use. Below
are some conversion factors between these units.
1 cal
1 Btu
1 Btu
1 cal

Heat & Work Conversion Factors

0.2388 cal
4.1868 J
1055 J
0.000 947 Btu
0.252 cal

The specific heat (also called specific heat capacity) is the amount of heat per
unit mass required to raise the temperature by one degree Celsius. The
relationship between heat and temperature change is usually expressed in the
form shown below where c is the specific heat. The relationship does not apply if
a phase change is encountered, because the heat added or removed during a
phase change does not change the temperature.
Q = cmT
Q is the heat added
C the specific heat
M is the mass
T is Tfinal - Tinitial
The phase changes mentioned above are the transitions between solid, liquid,
and gaseous matter. They typically involve large amounts of energy compared to
the specific heat and are called the latent heat of fusion and latent heat of
vaporisation which will be discussed later.
Different materials require differing amounts of heat energy to change their
temperature. The heat energy required to change the temperature of 1 kg of
material by 1 K is known as the specific heat capacity (c) of the material.
Examples of Specific Heat
Specific Heat J kg -1 K 1
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Due to the high specific heat of water, oceans and large lakes serve as
temperature stabilisers. Land surfaces have a much lower specific heat, and the
temperature can vary significantly throughout the day. This difference between
land and sea is the main cause of on and off shore winds at the coast. HEAT TRANSFER
There are three methods by which heat is transferred from one location to
another or from one substance to another. These three methods are conduction,
convection and radiation.
Conduction requires physical contact between a body having a high level of heat
energy and a body having a lower level of heat energy. When a cold object
touches a hot object, the violent action of the molecules in the hot material
speeds up the slow molecules in the cold object. This action spreads until the
heat is equalised throughout both bodies.
A good example of heat transfer by conduction is the way excessive heat is
removed from an aircrafts piston engine cylinder (refer Fig. 41). The combustion
process releases a great deal of heat, which passes to the outside of the cylinder
head and into the fins surrounding the head by conduction. The heat is then
conducted into the air as it flows through the fins.
Cooling Fins


Connecting Rod

Transfer of Heat by Conduction

Various metals have different rates of conduction. In some cases, the ability of a
metal to conduct heat is a major factor in choosing one metal over another.
Liquids are poor conductors of heat in comparison with metals. This can be
observed by boiling water at one end of a test tube whilst ice remains at the other
end. Gases are even worse conductors of heat than liquids, which is why we can
stand quite close to a fire or stove without being burned.
Insulators are materials that reduce or prevent heat conduction. A wooden
handle on a pot or soldering iron serves as a heat insulator. Materials such as
finely spun glass, are particularly poor heat conductors and are commonly used
in many types of insulation.
Convection is the process by which heat is transferred by the movement of a
heated fluid. For example, when heat is absorbed by a free-moving fluid, the fluid
closest to the heat source expands and its density decreases. This less dense
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fluid rises and forces the more dense fluid downwards. A pan of water on a stove
is heated in this way. The water on the bottom of the pan heats by conduction
and rises, and the cooler water then moves towards the bottom of the pan.

Example of Convection
Transfer of heat by convection is often hastened by the use of a ventilating fan to
move the air surrounding a hot object. The use of fan heaters in place of straight
electric fires to heat a room, is a case in point. When this process is used to
remove heat, a fan or pump is often used to circulate the coolant medium to
accelerate the transfer of heat.
Radiation is the only form of energy transfer that does not require the presence of
matter. The heat you feel from an open fire is not transferred by convection
because hot air over the fire rises. The heat is not transferred through
conduction because the conductivity of air is poor, and the cooler air moving
towards the fire overcomes the transfer of heat outwards. So there must be
some way for heat to travel across space other than by conduction or convection.
The term radiation refers to the continual emission of energy from the surface of
all bodies. This energy is known as radiant energy of which sunlight is a form.
This is why you feel warm standing in front of a window whilst it is very cold
Expansion and Contraction
All materials expand and contract with a change in temperature. This is most
noticeable in gases which expand the greatest amount and which is harnessed to
do work. Solids and liquids expand much less than gases and this must be taken
into consideration when designing all parts of aircraft and engines. VOLUMETRIC EXPANSION
Expansion can be considered as a change in length (see above), a change in
area or change in volume.
Different materials expand at different rates, and this may be used, for example,
when shrink fitting components

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Engineers are familiar with the effect of temperature on structures and
components, as the temperature increases, things expand (dimensions increase)
and vice versa. Expansion effects solids, liquids and gases.
But how much does a component expand? The answer should be obvious.
Expansion is proportional to the increase in temperature to the original dimension
and depends on the actual material used.
L2 - L1


L2 and L1 are final and initial lengths,

2 and 1 are final and initial temperatures
is a material constant (coefficient of linear expansion).


L1 (2 - 1)


Liquids behave in a similar way to solids when heated, but (a) they expand more
than solids, and (b) they expand volumetrically. Note that when heated, the
containers tends to expand as well, which may or may not be important to a
Gases however, behave in a rather more complex way, as volume and
temperature changes are usually accompanied by pressure changes.

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016


Heat is a form of energy. It is disordered energy. Work is the conversion of one
form of energy into another form. Thermodynamics is the study of the way that
one does work with heat.
A very simple device that can convert heat into potential energy is a rubber band.
Unlike most other substances, rubber contracts when heated. We can therefore
lift an object by heating a rubber band. Heat is converted into gravitational
potential energy

How much work can we possible get out of heat? Energy conservation limits the
amount of work we can get out of a certain amount of heat.
The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is conserved. We may
express it in the following way:
The change in internal energy of a system is equal to the heat added to the
system minus the work done by the system.
U = Q W


( is the mathematical symbol for a change in a quantity)

is the change in internal energy,
is the heat added to the system
is the work done by the system.

The first law makes use of the key concepts of internal energy, heat, and system
work. It is used extensively in the discussion of heat engines.
When work is done by a thermodynamic system, it is usually a gas that is doing
the work. The work done by a gas at a constant pressure is:

A system can be anything. It is most convenient if it has well defined boundaries.

Q is positive if it is put into the system, negative if it is taken out of the system.
W is positive if the system does work on its surroundings and is negative if work
is done on the system. The internal energy is the sum of the kinetic and potential
energy of the atom and molecules that make up the system.
Assume you are running an electric space heater. Let the space heater be the
system under consideration. It has warmed up and is now running at a constant
temperature. It consumes 500 Watts of electrical power. How much electrical
energy is converted into heat per hour?
U = Q - W. U = 0 since the temperature of the heating element is constant.
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Therefore Q = W. W is the electrical energy put into the system. It is

negative. Q must be negative. It is the heat leaving the system. 500 J of heat
are leaving the system per second. 500 J / s 3600 s = 1.8 MJ of electrical
energy are converted into heat every hour. All the electrical energy put into the
system is converted into heat. ( Any form of ordered energy can be completely
converted into heat.)
The second law of thermodynamics is a general principle which places
constraints upon the direction of heat transfer and the attainable efficiencies of
heat engines. In so doing, it goes beyond the limitations imposed by the first law
of thermodynamics. It's implications may be visualised in terms of the waterfall

The second law of thermodynamics is a profound principle of nature which affects

the way energy can be used. There are several approaches to stating this
principle qualitatively. Here are some approaches to giving the basic sense of the
1. Heat will not flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object.
2. You cannot create a heat engine which extracts heat and converts it all to
useful work.
3. There is a thermal bottleneck which constrains devices which convert stored
energy to heat and then use the heat to accomplish work. For a given
mechanical efficiency of the devices, a machine which includes the
conversion to heat as one of the steps will be inherently less efficient than
one which is purely mechanical.

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An ideal gas is defined as one in which all collisions between atoms or

molecules are perfectly elastic and in which there are no intermolecular attractive
forces. One can visualise it as a collection of perfectly hard spheres which collide
but which otherwise do not interact with each other. In such a gas, all the internal
energy is in the form of kinetic energy and any change in internal energy is
accompanied by a change in temperature.
An ideal gas can be characterised by three state variables: absolute pressure (P),
volume (V), and absolute temperature (T). The relationship between them may
be deduced from kinetic theory and is called the

Note: this law is stated here for completeness only. The variables within
the formula are beyond the scope of this course, it is not examinable
however the gas laws that follow are.
The ideal gas law can be viewed as arising from the kinetic pressure of gas
molecules colliding with the walls of a container in accordance with Newton's
laws. But there is also a statistical element in the determination of the average
kinetic energy of those molecules. The temperature is taken to be proportional to
this average kinetic energy; this invokes the idea of kinetic temperature.
For the purpose of calculations, it is convenient to place the ideal gas law in the
P2 V2
where the subscripts 1 and 2 refer to the initial and final states respectively of
some process. If the temperature is constrained to be constant, this becomes:
P1V1 = P2V2
which is referred to as Boyle's Law.
If the pressure is constant, then the ideal gas law takes the form



V2 = V1 x


which has been historically called Charles' Law. It is appropriate for experiments
performed in the presence of a constant atmospheric pressure. Calculations
involving this law must have temperatures must be expressed in degrees Kelvin,

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We have already defined the term specific heat as a quantity of heat supplied etc,
and this is sufficient when considering solids and liquids. Gases can be a
different case however, and the heat supplied to produce a temperature rise will
vary, depending on whether the gas is allowed to expand or not, whilst being
This leads to the two specific heat values.
Cp is the specific heat of the gas which is maintained at constant pressure, but
allowed to expand.
Cv is the specific heat of the gas which is maintained at a constant volume.
In the first case, the heat input raises the temperature, and causes the gas to
expand, during which the gas does work (gives out energy).
In the second case, the heat input only raises the temperature.
The ratio of the specific heats, symbol = , in which Cp is greater than Cv, hence
This particular relationship is frequently used in thermodynamics. pv = constant.


Put simply, work is done by a gas that is expanding; work is done on a gas that is
being compressed.
This is a simplification but reference to a pressure-volume (pv) diagram is helpful.
The work done by or on the gas is given by the area under the p-v curve.

If we go from v1 to v2 (expansion) work is done by the gas.

If we go from v2 to v1 (compression) work is done on the gas.
The exact amount of work depends on the exact nature of the expansion /
compression, i.e. is the relevant gas law pv = constant or pvn = constant or
= constant?
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These different equations give different curves, and hence different work values,
but this is beyond the scope of this module.
Note also that an expanding gas tends to cool; a gas being compressed tends to
Pressure-Volume (PV) diagrams are a primary visualisation tool for the study of
heat engines. Since the engines usually involve a gas as a working substance,
the ideal gas law relates the PV diagram to the temperature so that the three
essential state variables for the gas can be tracked through the engine cycle.
Since work is done only when the volume of the gas changes, the diagram gives
a visual interpretation of work done. Since the internal energy of an ideal gas
depends upon its temperature, the PV diagram along with the temperatures
calculated from the ideal gas law determine the changes in the internal energy of
the gas so that the amount of heat added can be evaluated from the first law of
thermodynamics. In summary, the PV diagram provides the framework for the
analysis of any heat engine which uses a gas as a working substance. ISOTHERMAL AND ADIABATIC PROCESSES
An isothermal process is one in which the temperature in a system remains
constant, an adiabatic process is one where no heat is added to, or taken away
from the system. Both these processes can occur when a gas expands or it is
compressed and can be seen to operate in a system known as a heat engine,
e.g. a combustion engine.
Heat Engines
A heat engine typically uses energy provided in the form of heat to do work and
then exhausts the heat which cannot be used to do work. Thermodynamics is
the study of the relationships between heat and work. The first law and second
law of thermodynamics constrain the operation of a heat engine. The first law is
the application of conservation of energy to the system, and the second sets
limits on the possible efficiency of the machine and determines the direction of
energy flow.

General heat engines can be described by the reservoir model (left) or by a

PV diagram (right)
Heat Engine Processes
Heat engine processes are shown on a PV diagram. Besides constant pressure,
volume and temperature processes, a useful process is the adiabatic process
where no heat enters or leaves the system. So no heat is gained or lost by the
system. The first law of thermodynamics with Q=0, i.e. heat = zero shows that all
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the change in internal energy is in the form of work done. This puts a constraint
on the heat engine process leading to the adiabatic condition shown below. This
condition can be used to derive the expression for the work done during an
adiabatic process.

The result of a heat engine process leading to expansion from to gives the work
expression below.
Since for an ideal gas the internal energy is proportional to temperature, it follows
there is no change in the internal energy of the gas during an isothermal process.
All the heat added to the system is used to do work.
Engine Cycles
For a constant mass of gas, the operation of a heat engine is a repeating cycle
and its PV diagram will be a closed figure. The idea of an engine cycle is
illustrated below for one of the simplest kinds of cycles. If the cycle is operated
clockwise on the diagram, the engine uses heat to do net work. If operated
counter-clockwise, it uses work to transport heat and is therefore acting as a
refrigerator or a heat pump.

The most efficient heat engine cycle is the Carnot cycle, consisting of two
isothermal processes and two adiabatic processes. The Carnot cycle can be
thought of as the most efficient heat engine cycle allowed by physical laws. When
the second law of thermodynamics states that not all the supplied heat in a heat
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engine can be used to do work, the Carnot efficiency sets the limiting value on
the fraction of the heat which can be so used.
In order to approach the Carnot efficiency, the processes involved in the heat
engine cycle must be reversible and involve no change in energy available to do
work. This means that the Carnot cycle is an idealisation, since no real engine
processes are reversible and all real physical processes involve some increase in
energy available to do work .

The temperatures in the Carnot efficiency expression must be expressed in

Although internal energy will not spontaneously flow from a hot region to a cold
region, it can be forced to do so by doing work on the system. Refrigerators and
heat pumps are examples of heat engines which cause energy to be transferred
from a cold area to a hot area. Usually this is done with the aid of a phase
change, i.e., a refrigerant liquid is forced to evaporate and extract energy from
the cold area. Then it is compressed and forced to condense in the hot area,
dumping its heat of vaporisation into the hot area.

A refrigerator is a heat engine in which work is done on a refrigerant substance in
order to collect energy from a cold region and exhaust it in a higher temperature
region, thereby further cooling the cold region.

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Refrigerators have made use of fluorinated hydrocarbons with trade names like
Freon-12, Freon-22, etc. which can be forced to evaporate and then condense by
successively lowering and raising the pressure. They can therefore "pump"
energy from a cold region to a hotter region by extracting the heat of vaporisation
from the cold region and dumping it in the hotter region outside the refrigerator.
The statements about refrigerators apply to air conditioners and heat pumps,
which embody the same principles.

Although this process works very well and has been in place for decades, the bad
news about it is that fluorinated hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere are
potent agents for the destruction of the ozone in the upper atmosphere.
Therefore tighter and tighter restrictions are being placed on their use.
A heat pump is a device which applies external work to extract an amount of heat
QC from a cold reservoir and delivers heat QH to a hot reservoir. A heat pump is
subject to the same limitations from the second law of thermodynamics as any
other heat engine and therefore a maximum efficiency can be calculated from the

Carnot cycle. Heat Pumps are usually characterised by a coefficient of

performance which is the number of units of energy delivered to the hot reservoir
per unit work input.
Air conditioners and heat pumps are heat engines like the refrigerator. They
make good use of the high quality and flexibility of electric energy in that they can
use one unit of electric energy to transfer more than one unit of energy from a
cold area to a hot area. For example, an electric resistance heater using one
kilowatt-hour of electric energy can transfer only 1 kWh of energy to heat your
house at 100% efficiency. But 1 kWh of energy used in an electric heat pump
could "pump" 3 kWh of energy from the cooler outside environment into your
house for heating. The ratio of the energy transferred to the electric energy used
in the process is called its coefficient of performance (CP). A typical CP for a
commercial heat pump is between 3 and 4 units transferred per unit of electric
energy supplied.
Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

The energy required to change a gram of a substance from the solid to the liquid
state without changing its temperature is commonly called it's "heat of fusion".
This energy breaks down the solid bonds, but leaves a significant amount of
energy associated with the intermolecular forces of the liquid state.

The energy required to change a gram of a liquid into the gaseous state at the
boiling point is called the heat of evaporation. This energy breaks down the
intermolecular attractive forces, and also must provide the energy necessary to
expand the gas (the PV work). For an ideal gas , there is no longer any potential
energy associated with intermolecular forces. So the internal energy is entirely in
the molecular kinetic energy.

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If water, for example, is heated at a constant rate, the temperature will rise,
shown by AB. At B, corresponding to 100C (the boiling point of water) the graph
follows BC, which represents the constant temperature of 100C. After a time,
the graph resumes its original path, CD.
What was happened to the heat supplied during the time period between B and
The answer is that it was used, not to raise the temperature, but to change the
state from water into steam. This is termed latent heat, and also features when
ice melts to become water.
So latent heat is the heat required to cause a change of state, and sensible
heat is the heat required to cause a change of temperature.

The average translational kinetic energy possessed by free particles is
sometimes called the thermal energy per particle. It is useful in making
judgements about whether the internal energy possessed by a system of
particles will be sufficient to cause other phenomena, e.g. their use as a fuel.
Any organic substance contains energy that can be released in the form of heat
when it is burned in the presence of oxygen. This process is a chemical reaction
called combustion. It requires three essential inputs, a fuel (the organic
substance), oxygen and heat. It is combustion that occurs in aero engines and
any occur heat engine.

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Light is one form of transmission of Electro-magnetic energy. Light travels at high
speed (about 3 x 108 metres per second) and in straight lines, although it can be
Light can also be reflected, usually by mirrors, which are made by depositing a
thin layer of metal on one side of a piece of glass. Some interesting facts may be
Observation and measurement will show that a.

the incident and reflected rays lie in the same plane.


the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.


When you look in a mirror, you see a reflection, usually termed an image. The
diagram above shows 2 reflected rays, viewing an object O from two different
angles. Note the reflected rays appear to come from I which corresponds to the
image, and lies on the same normal to the mirror as the object, and appears the
same distance behind the mirror as the object is in front.
Note also that the image is a virtual image, it can be seen, but cannot be shown
on a screen.
Note also that it appears the same size as the object, and is laterally inverted.
These are features of images in plane mirrors.
Mirrors can also be curves, sometimes they are spherical, sometimes parabolic.
The basic law, incidence equals reflection - still holds, but the curved surface
allows the rays to be focussed or dispersed.
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FP is known as the focal length.

Note the rays actually pass through F, and a
real image can be formed.

FP is still
the focal
length, but
the image
is virtual.

The size of the image depends on the

position of the object.

image may be smaller or larger.
Magnification =
(It can be shown for spherical mirrors
magnification = .


Concave mirrors (e.g. shaving mirrors) give a magnified, erect (right way up)
image, if viewed from close-to.
Convex mirrors (e.g. driving mirrors) give a smaller, erect image, but with a wide
field of view.
Parabolic reflectors can focus a wide parallel beam. By placing the bulb at the
focus, they can produce a strong beam of light. (Conversely, they can focus
microwave signals when used as an aerial).

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Many people have noticed a strange optical phenomenon when looking at

submerged objects. Such an object often appears to be at a reduced depth.
The rays appear to have been bent at the water / air boundary. This is known as

The angles of incidence and refraction are not equal, but they are related, shown
a constant =
is known as the refractive index and depends on the 2 mediums involved.
It can be shown that =

Another phenomena may occur. In the diagram, ray (1) has been refracted
across the boundary, but ray (2) has been internally reflected at the boundary.
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There is a critical angle of incidence when the ray in the denser medium does not
emerge, but travels along the boundary.
The relationship
sine C = exists.

Refraction is the basic principle which explains the workings of prisms and
As already stated, on refraction at a denser medium, a beam of light is bent
towards the normal and, vice versa.

n the diagram above, the ray APB is refracted away from the normal. For any
rarer medium the angle of refraction is always greater than the angle of
incidence. By increasing the angle of incidence, the angle of refraction will
eventually become 90, as in the case of the ray AP'D. A further increase in the
angle of incidence should give an angle of refraction greater than 90, but this is
impossible and the ray is reflection at the boundary, remaining within the denser
medium, this is 'total internal reflection'. None of the light passing through the

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Lenses can be made of glass or plastic, and like mirrors, have spherical surfaces
so as, to give concave or convex lenses. The light rays then meet the surface of
the lens at an angle to the normal, and are then refracted. As the rays exist the
lens, a second refraction takes place.

As with mirrors, images can be real or virtual, erect or inverted, and larger or
smaller. The nature of the image will depend on the type of lens, and the position
of the object in relation to the focal length of the lens, (the focal length is a
function of the curvature of the lens surfaces).

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The field of fibre optics depends upon the total internal reflection of light rays.
Light can be trapped by total internal reflection inside a bent glass rod and piped
along a curved path as in the diagram below. a single, very thin glass fibre
behaves in the same way. If several thousand such fibres were bundled together
a flexible light pipe is obtained that can be used from many different applications,
e.g. doctors or engineers Endo-scopes. The latest telephone cables are often
optical (very pure glass) fibres carrying information as pulses of laser light.
The fibres are so small that once the light is introduced into the fibre with an
angle within the confines of the numerical aperture of the fibre, it will continue to
reflect almost losslessly off the walls of the fibre and thus can travel long
distances in the fibre. Bundles of such fibres can accomplish imaging of
otherwise inaccessible areas.

Fibre Optic Imaging

Fibre optic imaging uses the fact that the light striking the end of an individual
fibre will be transmitted to the other end of that fibre. Each fibre acts as a light
pipe, transmitting the light from that part of the image along the fibre. If the
arrangement of the fibres in the bundle is kept constant then the transmitted light
forms a mosaic image of the light which struck the end of the bundle.

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For many people, the first thought concerning waves conjures up a picture of a
wave moving across the surface of an ocean, lake, pond or other body of water.
The waves are created by some form of a disturbance, such as a rock thrown into
the water. The water wave has a crest and a trough and
travels from one location to another. One crest is often
followed by a second crest which is often followed by a
third crest. Every crest is separated by a trough to
create an alternating pattern of crests and troughs. A
duck or gull at rest on the surface of the water is
observed to bob up-and-down at rather regular time
intervals as the wave passes by. The waves may
appear to be plane waves which travel together as a
front in a straight-line direction, perhaps towards a
sandy shore. Or the waves may be circular waves
which originate from the point where the disturbances occur; such circular waves
travel across the surface of the water in all directions.
Another picture of waves involves the movement of a
slinky or similar set of coils. If a slinky is stretched out from
end to end, a wave can be introduced into the slinky by
either vibrating the first coil up and down vertically or back
and forth horizontally. A wave will subsequently be seen
travelling from one end of the slinky to the other. As the
wave moves along the slinky, each individual coil is seen
to move out of place and then return to its original position.
The coils always move in the same direction that the first coil was vibrated. A
continued vibration of the first coil results in a continued back and forth motion of
the other coils. If looked at closely, one notices that the wave does not stop when
it reaches the end of the slinky; rather it seems to bounce off the end and head
back from where it started.
Waves come in many shapes and forms. While all waves share some basic
characteristic properties and behaviours, some waves can be distinguished from
others based on some very observable (and some non-observable)
characteristics. It is common to categorise waves based on these distinguishing
One way to categorise waves is on the basis of the direction of movement of the
individual particles of the medium relative to the direction which the waves travel.
Categorising waves on this basis leads to three notable categories: transverse
waves, longitudinal waves, and surface waves.
A transverse wave is a wave in
which particles of the medium
move in a direction
perpendicular to the direction
which the wave moves. If a
slinky is stretched out in a
horizontal direction across the
classroom, and a pulse is
introduced into the slinky on the
left end by vibrating the first coil up and down, then energy will begin to be
transported through the slinky from left to right. As the energy is transported from
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left to right, the individual coils of the medium will be displaced upwards and
downwards. In this case, the particles of the medium move perpendicular to the
direction which the pulse moves. This type of wave is a transverse wave.
Transverse waves are always characterised by particle motion being
perpendicular to wave motion.
A longitudinal wave is a wave in which particles of the medium move in a
direction parallel to the
direction which the wave
moves. If a slinky is stretched
out in a horizontal direction
across the classroom, and a
pulse is introduced into the
slinky on the left end by
vibrating the first coil left and right, then energy will begin to be transported
through the slinky from left to right. As the energy is transported from left to right,
the individual coils of the medium will be displaced leftwards and rightwards. In
this case, the particles of the medium move parallel to the direction which the
pulse moves. This type of wave is a longitudinal wave. Longitudinal waves are
always characterised by particle motion being parallel to wave motion.
A sound wave is a classic
example of a longitudinal wave.
As a sound wave moves from
the lips of a speaker to the ear
of a listener, particles of air
vibrate back and forth in the
same direction and the
opposite direction of energy transport. Each individual particle pushes on its
neighbouring particle so as to push it forward. The collision of particle no. 1 with
its neighbour serves to restore particle no. 1 to its original position and displace
particle no.2 in a forwards direction. This back and forth motion of particles in the
direction of energy transport creates regions within the medium where the
particles are pressed together and other regions where the particles are spread
apart. Longitudinal waves can always be quickly identified by the presence of
such regions. This process continues along the chain of particles until the sound
wave reaches the ear of the listener.
Another way to categorise waves is on the basis of the ability (or inability) to
transmit energy through a vacuum (i.e., empty space). Categorising waves on
this basis leads to two notable categories: electromagnetic waves and
mechanical waves.
An electromagnetic wave is a wave which is capable of transmitting its energy
through a vacuum (i.e., empty space). Electromagnetic waves are produced by
the vibration of electrons within atoms on the Sun's surface. These waves
subsequently travel through the vacuum of outer space, subsequently reaching
Earth. Were it not for the ability of electromagnetic waves to travel to Earth, there
would undoubtedly be no life on Earth. All light waves are examples of
electromagnetic waves.
A mechanical wave is a wave which is not capable of transmitting its energy
through a vacuum. Mechanical waves require a medium in order to transport their
energy from one location to another. A sound wave is an example of a
mechanical wave. Sound waves are incapable of travelling through a vacuum.

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A transverse wave is a wave in which the particles of the medium are displaced in
a direction perpendicular to the direction of energy transport. A transverse wave
can be created in a rope if the rope is stretched out horizontally and the end is
vibrated back-and-forth in a vertical direction. If a snap-shot of such a transverse
wave could be taken so as to freeze the shape of the rope in time, then it would
look like the following diagram.

The dashed line drawn through the centre of the diagram represents the
equilibrium or rest position of the string. This is the position that the string would
assume if there were no disturbance moving through it. Once a disturbance is
introduced into the string, the particles of the string begin to vibrate upwards and
downwards. At any given moment in time, a particle on the medium could be
above or below the rest position. Points A and F on the diagram represent the
crests of this wave. The crest of a wave is the point on the medium which
exhibits the maximum amount of positive or upwards displacement from the rest
position. Points D and I on the diagram represent the troughs of this wave. The
trough of a wave is the point on the medium which exhibits the maximum
amount of negative or downwards displacement from the rest position.
The wave shown above can be described by a variety of properties. One such
property is amplitude. The amplitude of a wave refers to the maximum amount of
displacement of a particle on the medium from its rest position. In a sense, the
amplitude is the distance from rest to crest. Similarly, the amplitude can be
measured from the rest position to the trough position. In the diagram above, the
amplitude could be measured as the distance of a line segment which is
perpendicular to the rest position and extends vertically upward from the rest
position to point A.
The wavelength is another property of a wave which is portrayed in the diagram
above. The wavelength of a wave is simply the length of one complete wave
cycle. If you were to trace your finger across the wave in the diagram above, you
would notice that your finger repeats its path. A wave has a repeating pattern.
And the length of one such repetition (known as a wave cycle) is the wavelength.
The wavelength can be measured as the distance from crest to crest or from
trough to trough. In fact, the wavelength of a wave can be measured as the
distance from a point on a wave to the corresponding point on the next cycle of
the wave. In the diagram above, the wavelength is the distance from A to E, or
the distance from B to G, or the distance from E to J, or the distance from D to I,
or the distance from C to H. Any one of these distance measurements would
suffice in determining the wavelength of this wave.
A longitudinal wave is a wave in which
the particles of the medium are
displaced in a direction parallel to the
direction of energy transport. A
longitudinal wave can be created in a
slinky if the slinky is stretched out
horizontally and the end coil is
vibrated back-and-forth in a horizontal direction. If a snap-shot of such a
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longitudinal wave could be taken so as to freeze the shape of the slinky in time,
then it would look like the following diagram
As discussed above, the wavelength of a wave is the length of one complete
cycle of a wave. For a transverse wave, the wavelength is determined by
measuring from crest to crest. A longitudinal wave does not have a crest; so how
can its wavelength be determined? The wavelength can always be determined by
measuring the distance between any two corresponding points on adjacent
waves. In the case of a longitudinal wave, a wavelength measurement is made
by measuring the distance from a compression to the next compression or from a
rarefaction to the next rarefaction. On the diagram above, the distance from point
A to point C or from point B to point D would be representative of the wavelength.
It was mentioned earlier that a wave is created in a slinky by the periodic and
repeating vibration of the first coil of the slinky. This vibration creates a
disturbance which moves through the slinky and transports energy from the first
coil to the last coil. A single back-and-forth vibration of the first coil of a slinky
introduces a pulse into the medium. But the act of continually vibrating the first
coil with a back-and-forth motion in periodic fashion introduces a wave into the
Suppose that a hand holding the first coil of a slinky is moved back-and-forth two
complete cycles in one second. The rate of the hand's motion would be 2
cycles/second. The first coil, being attached to the hand, in turn would vibrate at a
rate of 2 cycles/second. The second coil, being attached to the first coil, would
vibrate at a rate of 2 cycles/second. In fact, every coil of the slinky would vibrate
at this rate of 2 cycles/second. This rate of 2 cycles/second is referred to as the
frequency of the wave.
The frequency of a wave refers to how often the particles of the medium vibrate
when a wave passes through the medium.
In mathematical terms, the frequency is the number of complete vibration cycles
of a medium per a given amount of time and it as the units of cycles per second
or Hertz (Hz) where 1 Hz is equivalent to 1 cycle/second.
The frequency of a sound wave not only
refers to the number of back-and-forth
vibrations of the particles per unit of time, but
also refers to the number of compression or
rarefaction disturbances which pass a given
point per unit of time. A detector could be
used to detect the frequency of these
pressure oscillations over a given period of
time. The typical output provided by such a
detector is a pressure-time plot as shown
Period refers to the time which it takes to do something. When an event occurs
repeatedly, then we say that the event is periodic and refer to the time for the
event to repeat itself as the period. The period of a wave is the time for a particle
on a medium to make one complete vibration cycle. Period, being a time, is
measured in units of time such as seconds, hours, days or years.
Frequency and period are distinctly different, yet related, quantities. Frequency
refers to how often something happens; period refers to the time it takes
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something to happen. Frequency is a rate quantity; period is a time quantity.

Mathematically, the period is the reciprocal of the frequency and vice versa. In
equation form, this is expressed as follows.
period =



frequency =


Since the symbol f is used for frequency and the symbol T is used for period,
these equations are also expressed as:
Wave interference is the phenomenon which occurs when two waves meet
while travelling along the same medium. The interference of waves causes the
medium to take on a shape which results from the net effect of the two individual
waves upon the particles of the medium.
To begin our exploration of wave interference, consider two pulses of the same
amplitude travelling in different directions along the same medium. Let's suppose
that each crest has an amplitude of +1 unit (the positive indicates an upward
displacement as would be expected for a crest) and has the shape of a sine
wave. As the sine crests move towards each other, there will eventually be a
moment in time when they are completely overlapped. At that moment, the
resulting shape of the medium would be a sine crest with an amplitude of +2
units. The diagrams below depict the before- and during interference snapshots
of the medium for two such crests. The individual sine crests are drawn in red
and blue and the resulting displacement of the medium is drawn in green.
This type of interference is sometimes called constructive interference.

Constructive interference is a type of interference which occurs at any location

along the medium where the two interfering waves have a displacement in the
same direction. In this case, both waves have an upward displacement;
consequently, the medium has an upward displacement which is greater than the
displacement of the two interfering pulses. Constructive interference is observed
when a crest meets a crest; but it is also observed when a trough meets a trough
as shown in the diagram below.

Destructive interference is a type of

interference which occurs at any location
along the medium where the two
interfering waves have a displacement in
the opposite direction. For instance, when
a sine crest with an amplitude of +1 unit
meets a sine trough with an amplitude of -1 unit, destructive interference occurs.
This is depicted in the diagram below.

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In the situation in the diagram above, the interfering pulses have the same
maximum displacement but in opposite directions. The result is that the two
pulses cancel each other for the duration of the overlap. Once the two pulses
pass through each other, there is still a crest and a trough heading in the same
direction which they were heading before interference. Destructive interference
leads to only a momentary condition in which the medium's displacement is less
than the displacement of the largest-amplitude wave.
The task of determining the shape of the resultant wave caused by the
interference of two separate waves demands that the principle of superposition is
The principle of superposition is sometimes stated as follows:
When two waves interfere, the resulting displacement of the medium at any
location is the algebraic sum of the displacements of the individual waves
at that same location
A standing wave pattern is an interference phenomenon. It is a vibration pattern
created within a medium when the vibration frequency of the source causes
reflected waves from one end of the medium to interfere with incident waves from
the source in such a manner that specific points along the medium appear to be
standing still. Because the observed wave pattern is characterised by points
which appear to be standing still, the pattern is often called a "standing wave
pattern." Such patterns are only created within the medium at specific
frequencies of vibration; these frequencies are known
as harmonic frequencies, or merely harmonics. At
any frequency other than a harmonic frequency, the
interference of reflected and incident waves results in
a resulting disturbance of the medium which is
irregular and non-repeating, i.e. there is no standing
wave. A standing wave pattern is not actually a wave;
rather it is the pattern resulting from the presence of
two waves (sometimes more) of the same frequency
with different directions of travel within the same
The diagram on the right depicts a standing wave pattern in a medium. A
snapshot of the medium over time is depicted
using various colours. Note that point A on the
medium moves from a positive to a negative
displacement over time; such points are known
as anti-nodes. The diagram only shows one-half
cycle of the motion of the standing wave pattern.
The motion would continue and persist, with
point A returning to the same positive displacement and then continuing its backand-forth vibration between the up to the down position. Note that point B on the
medium is a point which never moves. Point B is a point of no displacement;
such points are known as nodes.

Physics by COBC - Issue 1 - 31 October, 2016

Page 85 SOUND
A sound wave is a pressure disturbance which travels through a medium by
means of particle interaction. As one particle becomes disturbed, it exerts a force
on the next adjacent particle, thus disturbing that particle from rest and
transporting the energy through the medium. Like any wave, the speed of a
sound wave refers to how fast the disturbance is passed from particle to particle.
While frequency refers to the number of vibrations which an individual particle
makes per unit of time, speed refers to the distance which the disturbance travels
per unit of time. SPEED OF SOUND
Like any wave, a sound wave has a speed which is mathematically related to the
frequency and the wavelength of the wave.
Speed = frequency x wavelength
Using the symbols v, and f, the equation can be re-written as
The above equations are useful for solving mathematical problems related to the
speed, frequency and wavelength relationship. However, one important
misconception could be conveyed by the equation. Even though wave speed is
calculated using the frequency and the wavelength, the wave speed is not
dependent upon these quantities. An alteration in wavelength does not effect (i.e.,
change) wave speed. Rather, an alteration in wavelength effects the frequency in
an inverse manner. A doubling of the wavelength results in a halving of the
frequency; yet the wave speed is not changed. The speed of a sound wave
depends on the properties of the medium through which it moves and the only
way to change the speed is to change the properties of the medium.
The speed of sound is primarily affected by temperature, the lower the
temperature, the lower the speed of sound.
A formula exists, where;
speed of sound =

ratio of specific heats of the gas
gas constant
gas temperature (in Kelvin)
Speed of sound is of utmost importance in the study of aerodynamics, because it
determines the nature and formation of shock waves. Because of this, aircraft
speed is often compressed in relation to the speed to sound.
Mach N
(Aircraft travelling at speeds greater than Mach 1 are supersonic, and generating
shock waves which will be covered in later modules).
The amount of energy which is transported past a given area of the medium per
unit of time is known as the intensity of the sound wave. The greater the
amplitude of vibrations of the particles of the medium, the greater the rate at
which energy is transported through it, and the more intense that the sound wave
is. Intensity is the energy/time/area; and since the energy/time ratio is equivalent
to the quantity power, intensity is simply the power/area.
Intensity =
Intensity =
Time x Area
Typical units for expressing the intensity of a sound wave are Watts/meter2.
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The scale for measuring intensity is the decibel scale. The threshold of hearing
is assigned a sound level of 0 decibels (abbreviated 0 dB); this sound
corresponds to an intensity of 1*10-12 W/m2.



Threshold of Hearing (TOH)

Rustling Leaves
Normal Conversation
Busy Street Traffic
Vacuum Cleaner
Large Orchestra
Walkman at Maximum Level
Front Rows of Rock Concert
Threshold of Pain
Military Jet Takeoff
Instant Perforation of Eardrum

1*10-12 W/m2
1*10-11 W/m2
1*10-10 W/m2
1*10-6 W/m2
1*10-5 W/m2
1*10-4 W/m2
6.3*10-3 W/m2
1*10-2 W/m2
1*10-1 W/m2
1*101 W/m2
1*102 W/m2
1*104 W/m2

0 dB
10 dB
20 dB
60 dB
70 dB
80 dB
98 dB
100 dB
110 dB
130 dB
140 dB
160 dB

# Times
Greater Than

While the intensity of a sound is a very objective quantity which can be measured
with sensitive instrumentation, the loudness of a sound is more of a subjective
response which will vary with a number of factors. The same sound will not be
perceived to have the same loudness to all individuals.
The ears of humans (and other animals) are sensitive detectors capable of
detecting the fluctuations in air pressure which impinge upon the eardrum. The
human ear is capable of detecting sound waves with a wide range of frequencies,
ranging between approximately 20 Hz to 20 000 Hz.
The sensations of these frequencies are commonly referred to as the pitch of a
sound. A high pitch sound corresponds to a high frequency and a low pitch sound
corresponds to a low frequency.
Such sound waves form the basis of intervals in music. For example, any two
sounds whose frequencies make a 2:1 ratio are said to be separated by an
octave and result in a particularly pleasing sensation when heard; that is, two
sound waves sound good when played together if one sound has twice the
frequency of the other. Similarly two sounds with a frequency ratio of 5:4 are said
to be separated by an interval of a third; such sound waves also sound good
when played together. Examples of other sound wave intervals and their
respective frequency ratios are listed in the table below.

Frequency Ratio

512 Hz and 256 Hz
320 Hz and 256 Hz
342 Hz and 256 Hz
384 Hz and 256

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The Doppler effect is a phenomenon observed whenever the source of waves is
moving with respect to an observer. The Doppler effect can be described as the
effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent
upward shift in frequency for the observer and the source are approaching and
an apparent downward shift in frequency when the observer and the source is
receding. The Doppler effect can be observed to occur with all types of waves most notably water waves, sound waves, and light waves.
We are most familiar with the Doppler effect because of our experiences with
sound waves. Perhaps you recall an
instance in which a police car or
emergency vehicle was travelling
towards you on the highway. As the car
approached with its siren blasting, the
pitch of the siren sound (a measure of
the siren's frequency) was high; and then
suddenly after the car passed by, the
pitch of the siren sound was low. That
was the Doppler effect - an apparent
shift in frequency for a sound wave
produced by a moving source.
The Doppler effect is observed because the distance between the source of
sound and the observer is changing. If the source and the observer are
approaching, then the distance is decreasing and if the source and the observer
are receding, then the distance is increasing. The source of sound always emits
the same frequency. Therefore, for the same period of time, the same number of
waves must fit between the source and the observer. if the distance is large, then
the waves can be spread apart; but if the distance is small, the waves must be
compressed into the smaller distance. For these reasons, if the source is moving
towards the observer, the observer perceives sound waves reaching him or her at
a more frequent rate (high pitch); and if the source is moving away from the
observer, the observer perceives sound waves reaching him or her at a less
frequent rate (low pitch). It is important to note that the effect does not result
because of an actual change in the frequency of the source. The source puts out
the same frequency; the observer only perceives a different frequency because
of the relative motion between them.


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