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Velocity of Light

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Students apply Maxwell's equations to calculate the capacitance, C, of a parallel plate capacitor, and to calculate the inductance, L, of a solenoid inductor. By measuring the resonant frequency of a circuit containing these elements, the students are able to determine a value for c and show that this value is the same as the accepted value for the speed of light.

The apparatus used is very simple. The capacitor is a pair of aluminum plates held apart by small glass spacers. The inductor is made from copper wire wound on a plexiglass tube. A function generator is used to drive the circuit and an oscilloscope to observe the resonance.

Course Level

Introductory: P4, P14, P16

Student Handouts


Number of set-ups available: 10

Per lab station:

1 HP 54600A oscilloscope
1 function generator
1 capacitance substitution box
1 inductor
1 solenoid
2 large aluminum plates
4 small glass plates
1 ruler
1 venier caliper
3 BNC to banana adaptors
2 straight BNC connectors
1 BNC T-connector
2 36" banana leads
6 shorter banana leads

Velocity of light apparatus


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Site contact: largent@Dartmouth.EDU

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