The only new physics ‘toys’ I bought for teaching this year were some Go Direct sensors by Vernier. They work directly with an iPad via bluetooth and their cost was fairly reasonable ($59 & $79 for the ones used in this lab) for a small class. For today’s lab the students needed to measure the pressure of a gas as they changed its volume (at constant temperature) and as the temperature changed (with constant volume).
The first set up is very simple, as seen in the photo below, its just a syringe attached to the Go Direct pressure sensor. The syringe actually screws and locks onto the sensor. Students started with 10 ml of air at atmospheric pressure and room temperature in the
syringe and then attached it to the sensor. One student in each group connected their iPad to the sensor via bluetooth and the Graphical Analysis app. They then changed the volume of the gas sample by pushing the plunger in on the syringe and recording the pressure and volume. They also took data at lower pressures by increasing the volume, pulling the syringe out. The volume is easily read off the syringe.
The data came out great. Some students graphed the results by hand, some used the Data Analysis app or the Graphical Analysis app, did a fit to the data and found that pressure did indeed depend on 1/Volume. Solving the ideal gas law for P (pressure), you get P = nRT/V and in this experiment nRT are all constant (n = number of moles, R = ideal gas constant, T = temperature).
Since I only had one pressure sensor the students had to wait and take turns doing the experiment, but it only took about 10 minutes to take the data you see in the graph on the right. I put the next homework assignment on the board and had students work on that until it was their turn to take data.
This worked sooooo much better then when we did this lab in the past using a syringe and balancing books on it, calculating the pressure on the syringe from the weight of the books and then measuring the volume. It just never came out very well so I’m very glad I bought this sensor, it made this lab a lot easier and it actually worked! This is one of the few labs you end up doing in both chemistry and physics class so I should get plenty of use out the pressure sensor.
For the second lab, we used two Go Direct sensors, the pressure sensor and a Go Direct temperature sensor. We could have just used a thermometer, but I bought the temperature sensor to use with some other labs we’l be doing in the spring and figured I might as well use it. I’m pretty sure the iPads will only connect to one sensor at a
time so we had one student measuring the pressure and another student measuring the temperature. The pressure sensor came with the stopper and tubing seen in the photo to the left. It fit a flask I had and that became our gas sample for the second experiment. We did this experiment as one big group. The first data point was at room temperature, then we placed the flask in an ice water bath to get a lower temperature data point. Then we put the flask in a warm water bath and a hot water bath for a total of 4 data points. You can see the results in the graph below, pressure depends linearly on the temperature of the gas when the volume is held constant. From the fit you can also see that the y-intercept, b, is pretty much zero, which is what you would expect. Pressure should be zero at T= 0 K, absolute zero.
From the ideal gas law, P = nRT/V, in this experiment n (number of moles) and V, the volume were held constant and we see pressure equals a constant times temperature. I’m very happy with these sensors, this lab was always a chore and now its so easy. I’m going to have the students write up the results of this lab in a formal lab report.
At the end of class I brought out a windbag – basically a 2 meter long thin bag, roughly 6 inches in diameter. I laid it out on the table and asked my students how many breaths they thought it would take for me to blow it up. Most immediately said a LOT of breaths, but one already knew the trick and said I could fill it with one breath – which is the right answer! By holding the end of the bag wide open and having the bag laid out on the table, I had my mouth about a foot from the opening of the bag and blew into it. Blowing into the bag at a distance lowered the pressure around the mouth of the bag causing the air around it to rush into the bag – hence filling it with one breath. I had a box of these bags and each student got to take one home. These were more fun than I expected and a nice demonstration of Bernouilli’s principle.