Investigating friction

This is an example of a common experiment used to investigate friction and should help you understand how to work scientifically.

Aim of the experiment

To investigate the frictional forces on a mass being pulled down a slope of different gradients.

Method

  1. Set up the apparatus as in the diagram.
  2. Pull the mass along the ramp using the force meter.
  3. Record the force needed to start the mass moving (this will be less than the force to pull it along once it is moving).
  4. Increase the height of the ramp to 10 cm to make the gradient steeper.
  5. Measure the force.
  6. Repeat by moving the ramp up in 10 cm intervals until 50 cm is reached.
Experiment to investigate frictional forces. A mass is pulled along a ramp using a force meter.An experiment to investigate frictional forces

Variables

  • The independent variable is the height of the ramp (its gradient).
  • The dependent variable is the force needed to pull the mass down the ramp.
  • Controlled variables include using the same mass and ramp surface.

Risks

Care must be taken with masses.

Expected results

Height of rampForce needed
10 cm21 N
20 cm16 N
30 cm10 N
40 cm5 N
50 cm2 N

What the results mean

The force needed to start the mass moving reduced as the ramp became steeper (the gradient increased). Fewer frictional forces exist when the ramp is steeper.

Evaluation

  • Your measurements are accurate if they are close to their true value.
  • Your measurements are precise if they are similar when completed again.
  • Your experiment is repeatable if you get precise measurements when it is repeated.
  • Your experiment is reproducible if others get precise measurements when they repeat it.