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Electromagnetic Induction Experiment

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lab, we're going to use the principle of electromagnetic induction to generate electricity. We'll be studying how the number of coils of wire and movement of the magnet can affect the current generated during electromagnetic induction.

Introduction

Goal: To generate an electric current using a magnetic field
Age: High school and up
Time: 1 hour
Safety concerns: None

Electricity is one of the wonders of the modern world. It keeps our meat and produce fresh, preventing the spread of food-borne illness. It lights the way, both for cars and pedestrians outside, and in our buildings. You're using electricity right now to power your computer or phone.

But how do you make electricity? It's not something you can package in a box. The answer is through a process called electromagnetic induction. During electromagnetic induction, large coils of wire are rotated through a magnetic field. The magnetic force causes electrons, tiny negatively charged particles, to move in the wire. The movement of electrons creates a current, which is the electricity we know and love. Current has direction, based on which way the electrons move, denoted by a positive or negative number.

Today, you'll be trying electromagnetic induction yourself. Your model won't be as big as the ones we use in power plants for our homes, but you will be able to measure the current in the wire using an ammeter, a device that measures current in Amps (A).

Today, we'll focus on two questions - How can we change the magnitude of induced current, and how can we change the direction of the induced current. Before you start, think about some factors that might affect each and make a prediction.

Materials

  • 1 toilet paper tube roll
  • 3 spools of thin copper wire
  • Large magnet (the stronger the magnet, the better your induction will be. The best magnets are neodymium magnets, which can be purchased from online science suppliers)
  • Ammeter

There are many different kinds of ammeters but this is one example of a digital ammeter
ammeter

  • 2 alligator clips
  • Data table like this one:

Coils of wire Direction of magnet movement Current (Amps)
50 in
50 out
100 in
100 out
150 in
150 out

Steps

1. First, neatly wrap your copper wire around the toilet paper roll. The coils need to be neatly packed against each other. Leave at least 3 inches of free wire at both ends so you can connect it to your ammeter.

2. Next, use the alligator clips to attach the ammeter to the wire. Your ammeter may have more than one setting. Consult your manual for how to set it up properly before starting your experiment.

Alligator clips can connect parts of a circuit
alligator clips

3. Now it's time to generate the current. Move your magnet in and out of the tube. Record the current on the ammeter for both when you insert the magnet and when you take it out. You might need to try this a few times to get an accurate measurement.

Experiment setup
generator

4. Repeat step 1-3 with the different number of coils

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