Condensed Matter

Molecular Size

Also known as the Ben Franklin pond experiment, after a story in B.F's autobiography.

Olive oil with a known volume is dropped onto water. The water has been dusted with lycopodium powder, which floats on the surface. The oil drop expands, pushing the powder aside to form a clear circle, until the oil forms a monolayer. Measuring the area of the monolayer, dividing the volume of the drop by that area, gives the thickness of the monolayer, which is the height of the oil molecule on water.

From our demonstration movie, we found these values. The size of the patch was 62 cm...

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Creep of Lead

What it shows:

A metal under stress will not fracture straight away, but will deform plastically due to the dislocation of crystal boundaries; this is called creep.

How it works:

Here we use lead as the test sample because there is significant creep compared to other metals. The lead is loaded (see fig.1) to a value that is just below the breaking stress of the sample. When creep occurs, the lead is drawn thinner at its weakest point (called 'necking', see fig.2) until its reduced cross-sectional area causes the sample to exceed its breaking...

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Fracture Strength of Chalk

What it shows:

This demonstration allows you to compare chalk’s compressive strength with its tensile strength.

How it works:

We use railroad chalk, which although being softer and harder to work, is nice and big and easy to see. A sample is placed in each of the two types of testing assembly (details in Setting it Up), and loads carefully applied. Railroad chalk has a tensile strength of 195kNm-2 ± 30kNm-2 (a load of 2.5 to 3.5kg) and a compressive strength of 500kNm-2 ± 65kNm-2 ( a load of 7 to 9kg).


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