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Physics Home > Teaching Labs > Mechanics > Normal Modes 


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Lab ActivitiesIn this lab, students examine the motion of a system of two or more coupled oscillators driven by an external periodic driving force. The oscillators are connected in such a way that energy is transferred back and forth between them, leading to coupled oscillations. Although this motion can be quite complex, it is possible to describe the motion of the entire oscillatory system in terms of n normal coordinates , which are linear combinations of the original coordinates. Conversion to the normal coordinates results in n independent equations in which the normal coordinates are uncoupled and each varies harmonically with time. This means that each normal coordinate can be considered as a single independent oscillator, called the normal mode, or eigenmode, that resonates its characteristic frequency, usually called the eigenfrequency. If nonlinearity is neglected, any arbitrary undriven motion of the system can be analyzed into its normal mode components. The students examine systems that have from two to five normal modes. Course LevelIntermediate Student Handouts
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