Archimedes' Principle and Buoyancy

Buoyancy

Have you ever had a swim in a pool and felt lighter? Have you ever drawn water from a well and felt that the bucket of water is heavier when it is out of the water? Have you ever wondered why a ship made of iron and steel does not sink in sea water, but while the same amount of iron and steel in the form of a sheet would sink? These questions can be answered by taking buoyancy in consideration. Let us understand the meaning of buoyancy by doing an activity.

 

Activity-1:

• Take an empty plastic bottle. Close the mouth of the bottle with an airtight stopper. Put it in a bucket filled with water. You see that the bottle floats.

• Push the bottle into the water. You feel an upward push. Try to push it further down. You will find it difficult to push deeper and deeper. This indicates that water exerts a force on the bottle in the upward direction. The upward force exerted by the water goes on increasing as the bottle is pushed deeper till it is completely immersed.

• Now, release the bottle. It bounces back to the surface.

Does the force due to the gravitational attraction of the earth act on this bottle? If so, why doesn’t the bottle stay immersed in water after it is released? How can you immerse the bottle in water?

The force due to the gravitational attraction of the earth acts on the bottle in the downward direction. So the bottle is pulled downwards. But the water exerts an upward force on the bottle. Thus, the bottle is pushed upwards. We have learnt that weight of an object is the force due to gravitational attraction of the earth. When the bottle is immersed, the upward force exerted by the water on the bottle is greater than its weight. Therefore it rises up when released.

To keep the bottle completely immersed, the upward force on the bottle due to water must be balanced. This can be achieved by an externally applied force acting downwards. This force must at least be equal to the difference between the upward force and the weight of the bottle.

The upward force exerted by the water on the bottle is known as upthrust or buoyant force. In fact, all objects experience a force of buoyancy when they are immersed in a fluid. The magnitude of this buoyant force depends on the density of the fluid.

 

Why objects float or sink when placed on the surface of water?

Let us do the following activities to arrive at an answer for the above question.

 

Activity-2:

• Take a beaker filled with water.

• Take an iron nail and place it on the surface of the water.

• Observe what happens.

The nail sinks. The force due to the gravitational attraction of the earth on the iron nail pulls it downwards. There is an upthrust of water on the nail, which pushes it upwards. But the downward force acting on the nail is greater than the upthrust of water on the nail. So it sinks (Fig. 1).

 

Fig.1

 

 Archimedes’ Principle

 

Activity-3:

• Take a piece of stone and tie it to one end of a rubber string or a spring balance.

• Suspend the stone by holding the balance or the string as shown in Fig.2 (a).

• Note the elongation of the string or the reading on the spring balance due to the weight of the stone.

• Now, slowly dip the stone in the water in a container as shown in Fig.2(b).

• Observe what happens to elongation of the string or the reading on the balance.

 

Fig.2. (a)  & (b)

 

You will find that the elongation of the string or the reading of the balance decreases as the stone is gradually lowered in the water. However, no further change is observed once the stone gets fully immersed in the water. What do you infer from the decrease in the extension of the string or the reading of the spring balance?

We know that the elongation produced in the string or the spring balance is due to the weight of the stone. Since the extension
decreases once the stone is lowered in water, it means that some force acts on the stone in upward direction. As a result, the net force on the string decreases and hence the elongation also decreases. As discussed earlier, this upward force exerted by water is known as the force of buoyancy.

What is the magnitude of the buoyant force experienced by a body? Is it the same in all fluids for a given body? Do all bodies in a given fluid experience the same buoyant force?

The answer to these questions is contained in Archimedes’ principle, stated as follows:

When a body is immersed fully or partially in a fluid, it experiences an upward force that is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by it.

Now, can you explain why a further decrease in the elongation of the string was not observed in activity-3, as the stone was fully immersed in water?

Archimedes’ principle has many applications. It is used in designing ships and submarines. lactometers, which are used to determine the purity of a sample of milk and hydrometers used for determining density of liquids, are based on this principle.

 

Relative Density

As you know, the density of a substance is defined as mass of a unit volume. The unit of density is kilogram per metre cube (kg m–3). The density of a given substance, under specified conditions, remains the same. Therefore the density of a substance is one of its characteristic properties. It is different for different substances. For example, the density of gold is 19300 kg m-3  while that of water is 1000 kg m-3. The density of a given sample of a substance can help us to determine its purity.

It is often convenient to express density of a substance in comparison with that of water. The relative density of a substance is the ratio of its density to that of water:

 Relativedensity = Density of a substance / Density of water

Since the relative density is a ratio of similar quantities, it has no unit.

 

Example-1:

Relative density of silver is 10.8. The density of water is 103 kg m–3. What is the density of silver in SI unit?

Solution:

Relative density of silver = 10.8

Relative density=Density of silver / Density of water

Density of silver = Relative density of silver × density of water

                            = 10.8 × 103 kg m–3.

 

What you have learnt?

  • All objects experience a force of buoyancy when they are immersed in a fluid.

  • Objects having density less than that of the liquid in which they are immersed, float on the surface of the liquid. If the density of the object is more than the density of the liquid in which it is immersed then it sinks in the liquid.

 

 

 

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