Electromagnetic braking in a copper pipe
This demonstration always amazes 14-16 year olds, with whom I show some 'electromagnetic magic' and demonstrate electromagnetic forces. Post 16 you can use it to illustrate em induction and Lenz's law.
Apparatus and materials
Copper pipe, 2 m, 16 mm diameter with smaller magnets
Copper pipe, 2 m, 22 mm diameter with larger magnets
Magnet, cylindrical 'rare earth' (e.g. diameter 1 cm, 7 mm long)
Non-ferrous metal, pieces, of similar shape and size
Bucket or container of sand to cushion impact of magnet at floor level
Data logger plus computer
Coil to act as sensor
Health & Safety and Technical notes
Do not allow pupils to stand on the bench where they may fall over the tube. (Students should not work with bags on the bench, as shown in the photograph!)
Clamp pipe vertically - usually two stands are needed, one on the floor and one on a bench or stable stool.
a Clamp copper pipe vertically with sand bucket (or similar) underneath, so that the bottom of the pipe is about 20-30 cm above the sand.
b Drop non-ferrous metal from the top of the pipe as a control.
c Drop a magnet down the pipe and wait for 'wows'. Repeat if required using a stopwatch to time the magnet.
1 The falling magnet induces eddy currents in the copper pipe (which acts effectively as a single one-turn coil). The magnetic field created by induced current 'opposes' the change that caused it - this is Lenz's Law.
2 Does the magnet reach a terminal velocity? This is a question to investigate.
3 With the larger tube and cubical magnets, watch the magnet tumble as it falls down the pipe - lots of scope for student investigation.
This experiment was submitted by David Grace who teaches at Ysgol Y Preseli, Crymych, Pembrokeshire.
Power magnet store (Magnets are available from several sources, including the Power Magnet Store)
Page last updated on 09 February 2012