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D E M O N S T R AT I O N S

6 Sound propagation in a vacuum


Aim: To demonstrate that sound is a mechanical wave and cannot propagate in a vacuum.

Equipment:
� Glass bell jar that can be � Foam pad to sit the alarm clock
evacuated by a vacuum pump on, or a system to hang the alarm
� A battery powered alarm clock clock from the bell jar to minimise
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1 2
the propagation of sound through 11 1
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mechanical parts 9 3
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Method
● Set the alarm clock to ring indefinitely.
● Place the alarm clock in the bell jar and
to pump
evacuate the bell jar using the vacuum pump.
● As the vacuum improves, the sound intensity ● Switch off the vacuum pump and vent the
of the alarm decreases until it cannot be heard system to atmospheric pressure.
over the vacuum pump. ● The alarm can be heard again.

Explanation
Sound is a mechanical wave and requires a medium to travel
through. By removing the air from within the bell jar, the sound from
the alarm clock can no longer propagate away from the alarm clock.

© OUP: this may be reproduced for class use solely for the purchaser’s institute