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Physics IA:

Investigating the relationship between gas law and water rocket.

It has been my childhood memory to play with water rockets. When I was in my 3rd
grade in primary school, my science teacher taught us the way to fire rockets into 5
stories high, only with water pressure. This scientific wonder stunned me and over the
years, I have been thinking of the optimal conditions to create a water rocket that
would fly the maximum vertical height. The physics internal assessment provided me
with an excellent chance to investigate on this topic and test my findings.

Physics that is involved in this experimentation is energy and gas law, which requires
me looking into details like bottle shape, water, pressure, in order to answer the topic

What I am going to do about this experiment is that I will be looking at the variation
of water volume and air pressure, finding out the relationship between them, by
applying gas law through data collecting and graph plotting.

Number of attempts Volume of water (ml) Time (s) Height (m) Guage Pressure (Pa)
0 0 0 0
1 50 0.010 6.37 3867.07
2 100 0.012 6.29 2995.90
3 150 0.015 6.20 2192.07
4 200 0.018 5.92 1698.24
5 250 0.022 5.46 1282.30
6 300 0.026 4.98 1014.89
7 350 0.030 4.36 830.64
8 400 0.035 3.89 669.40
9 450 0.038 3.27 596.60
10 500 0.042 2.99 518.60
11 550 0.044 2.45 485.90
12 600 0.047 2.12 443.04
13 650 0.048 1.77 430.17
14 700 0.050 1.34 406.28
15 750 0.051 1.36 395.17
16 800 0.051 1.21 395.17
17 850 0.052 0.994 384.57
18 900 0.052 0.687 384.57
19 950 0.052 0.343 384.57
20 1000 0.052 0.172 384.57

Control variable Dependent variable Independent variable

The bottle I used Volume of water (50 mL Maximum height
at a time) (measured in Meters)
Pressure pump with gauge From 0 mL to 1000 mL Pressure being read from
beaker the gauge (167.4 psi as
average value)
Same space (outdoor, in Reading on the Altimeter
the afternoon) (measured in Meters)
Same weather condition
(at around 26.5)

The table below shows the data collected during the experimentation
To do the experiment, I first need to prepare a plastic bottle with a volume of 1000
mL and put it under a tripod to stable it. Then I need to prepare a beaker with a
measurement from 0 mL to 1000 mL, because it is used to measure the volume of the
water used when the water rocket launches. After that, A pressure pump which is
connect with a pressure gauge will be used in order to find out how much air I have
pumped into the water rocket to make it leave the land. Then, a plastic tube will be
used in order to connect water rocket and the pressure pump. Lastly, an altimeter will
be stuck on the top of the bottle because it is used to record the height the rocket flew.

The problem I realized during the experiment is that the rocket actually spins and
stays in the air when it reaches its maximum height. After the rocket lands, the bottle
is almost empty.

The diagram below shows the equipment that are used during the experiment:
Water rocket A 1 liter staright body plastic pepsi water bottle
Bubble wrap To wrap around the rocket to protect the
apparatus that is stuck on it (which is the
Pressure guage Connected to the bicycle pump in order to take
measurements in each trail
Tripod A launch pad for stabling the water rocket
Altimeter Connected to the water rocket in order to record
the height
Mobile Phone Taking videos and check how long the rockect
stays in air when it reaches its maximum height
Tape Use to stable the pump and the rocket , also
stabling the altimeter, bubble wrap and the
Bicycle Pump A tool for pumping air into the water rocket

Through out the entire experiment, the time (T) represents how long
the rocket stays in air when it reaches its maximum height in each
Graphs are plotted in order to show the relationship between each

This graph is plotted with the raw data collected during the
experiment. It shows that presure and volume are inversely
proportional. It can also be proved with the ideal gas law equation
PV = nRT.. The equation for ideal gas law will be applied in order to
explain the variation of pressure volume with the water rocket. For R
is the universal gas constant, T is temperature of the gas in K, n is
the amount of ideal gas and V is the volume of the container with
the gas. The equation shows the pressure, volume as well as the
temperature of certain amount (n) of ideal gas. P is the absolute

Moreover, another graph of P against will be plotted in order to
find the relationship between the gauge pressure and the volume,
based on the formula:
Therefore, P is
According to the graph above, it indicates the inverse relationship
between gauge pressure and the volume, which comes out with a
linear graph, plotted with a line of best fit.

As a result these 2 graphs are demonstrated as a strong model of

ideal gas law. Eventhough Absolute pressure wasnt used in the
experiment I did, the graphs has show the similar conclusion and
relatinoship between each variables.

In the actual experimentation, inefficiency and losses in energy are

expected to see. During the process of launching the water rocket,
there is a drag force acting on it, which is gravitational force,
calculated with the formula: mgh.

For m is mass, g is garviatational force ( 9.81 ms -1) and h is the


PV = 2
PV =Nm

Where Nm is defined as work done in this case.

Another graph will be ploted for PV against mgh. Where P is

absolute pressure.
Mass will be calculate with the formula : Density of water(kg/m) x
volume of water( m 3 .The density of water is 997 kg/m
PabsV (Nm) mgh
1 5.2596035 3.115111545
10.43209 6.15197853
15.5275605 9.0959301
20.604648 11.58019488
25.651825 13.35047805
6 30.701967 14.61217158
35.754474 14.92514982
40.79776 15.21856692
45.86472 14.39210876
10 50.9218 14.62195215
55.995995 13.17931808
61.060824 12.44088504
66.1408605 11.25254579
14 71.211896 9.17417466
76.2901275 9.9761814
81.376136 9.46759176
86.4531345 8.263603593
18 91.538613 6.047326431
96.6240915 3.186998735
101.70957 1.68225804
This graph shows the relatioship between mgh and PV, which is a
parabolic graph. Note that the graditent on the curve does not have
any unit.

The perfect case for this is when they are 100% equal to each other,
which is when PV is exactly equals to mgh. The graph should be a
straight line instead of a curve.

If this case in taken event in real life, there may be external

concerns that are taken into account:
1 2
PV =mgh+friction+ m v +leakage of water

In addition, I will present another table of adding absolute pressure

to atmospheric pressure. In this case a new set of data will be
calculated with the raw data, with uncertainty taken in account due
to systematic error .

With the equation of ideal gas law : PV = nRT.

P will be the absolute pressure, in which Pabs = Patm + Pgauge
Atmospheric pressure is 101325 Pa
V will be volume, which will be measured in m3
T will be measured in Kelvin, which is 26+ 273= 299
R will be the gas constant

Volume Pressure 0.01 (Pabs/Pa) Height 0.01 (m)

1 600 105192.07 0
2 300 104320.9 6.37
3 200 103517.07 6.29
4 150 103023.24 6.20
5 120 102607.3 5.92
6 100 102339.89 5.46
7 85.71428571 102155.64 4.98
8 75 101994.4 4.36
9 66.66666667 101921.6 3.89
10 60 101843.6 3.27
11 54.54545455 101810.9 2.99
12 50 101768.04 2.45
13 46.15384615 101755.17 2.12
14 42.85714286 101731.28 1.77
15 40 101720.17 1.34
16 37.5 101720.17 1.36
17 35.29411765 101709.57 1.21
18 33.33333333 101709.57 0.994
19 31.57894737 101709.57 0.687
20 30 101709.57 0.343

Since uncertainty of both height and pressure is 0.01 , the V

above will be defned as smallest volume base, which will be
calculated :
0.013=3 0.01

0.01 3
V olume base= 3
volume m
This gives the data above.

Another graph of P against will be plotted with the new data
The graph came out to be a curve, which is almost a straight line,
but it also suggested that it would never cross 0. It is because actual
ideal gas does not exist in real life and can never be approached.

The perfect situation of this can be defined in this way:

If : PV =Constant Temperature
PV =constant
It is because the experiment is hold up under a constant
temperature, so the result will be constant, which will be
represented as k

PV =constant
PV =k
1 1
P Or V
In conclusion, the data collected from the water rocket experiment matches, to a high
extent, the gas law of PV = nRT. The more water there was in the rocket, the lower it
flew, proving an inversely proportional relationship between the pressure of the gas
and the volume of the water bottle. The dependent variable will be the amount of
water and gas added in the water, while the independent variable will be the distance
of how far the rocket went. Compare with the real life, the water rocket is a smaller
model of an actual rocket. As a result, the data collected may not be accurate because
there is air resistance acting on the water rocket and this will affect the results
collected. In addition, the alitmeter broke during the halfway of the experiment, so the
results may not be accurat as I have use another alitmeter that is same as the broken
one. Still, there will be some systemetic error. The graphs and data has come up with a
conclusion that in real life, PV mgh.

Random errors are made through the plotting of the graph, which follows my
expected trend, which are the curves and lines on the graph with the error bars and
poles. While the systematic occurs due to the not quite zero setups on my digital

The experiment is used to carry out to explain how gas law is related to the maximum
height that can be achieve when flying the water rocket. he data results, the graphs has
illustrates the relationship between the pressure and volume and height achieve. In
addition, they also show how pressure and volume have inversely proportional

In order to improve my experiment and further development, I think I should repeat

the same setup for more times, which allows me to get more data and better average
results. In the same setup, I may do further development and research on velocity of
1 2
the rocket, which includes the formula (mgh + mv ) and it also helps to improve
the accuracy of my experiment.

Moreover, I can also repeat the same experiment with different

kinds of liquid of same volume, just like: water + sugar, water +oil,
etc. Changing the density of liquid of water rocket is also an
interesting topic for me to investigate through out this experiment,
or even trying out the same setup with water of different
Reference: (setup)
rypostconfact.htm (Nasas guide and explanation)
(Physics explanation on water rocket experiment)