Simple harmonic motion of two springs

  1. 1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    "Two light springs have spring constants k1 and k2, respectively, and are used
    in a vertical orientation to support an object of mass m. Show that the angular
    frequency of small amplitude oscillations about the equilibrium state is
    [(k1 + k2)/m]^1/2 if the springs are in parallel, and [k1 k2/(k1 + k2)m]^1/2 if
    the springs are in series. "

    2. Relevant equations
    f = -kx
    w = (k/m)^1/2
    frequency = w/(2 * pi)

    3. The attempt at a solution

    So I set up my fnet for the parallel one

    m * x'' = - (k1x + k2x) since in the parallel feature there are two distinct springs exerting two distinct forces

    however dividing through I'm left with

    x'' = - (k1x + k2x)/m

    I'm not quite sure how to use x'' to get to angular frequency or how to remove the negative sign.
  2. jcsd
  3. For a simple harmonic oscillation, x"=-(w^2)x
  4. Solutions to x'' = -[(k1+k2)/m]x can be written in the form x(t) = A*sin(wt+phi) so from what you know about the sine function if you can find the period, you can find the frequency, which will enable you to find the angular frequency...
  5. Oh I think I got it!

    x'' + [(k1 + k2)/m]x = 0

    And using the characteristic polynomial to solve this second order DE, gives me the solution

    x(t) = A cos(wt + phi) if and only if w = [(k1 + k2)/m]^1/2

    now for setting up the DE in the series case I'm having some difficulty would it be:

    m * x'' = -k1 * k2 x ? Since you could treat both k1 and k2 acting as one k? errr..
  6. Sure you got the effective k for springs in series correct?
  7. oh wait, if I want to combine the k in both springs into another constant I'm going to have to take the "center of mass" sort of speak for the spring stiffness - I forget the correct terminology... center of stiffness?

    m * x'' = -[(k1 * k2)/(k1 + k2)] x

    x '' + (k1 * k2)/[(k1 + k2) * m]x = 0

    Using the characteristic equation I again get

    x(t) = A cos (wt - phi) if and only if w = {(k1 * k2)/[(k1 + k2) * m]}^1/2

    Which of course is the answer.
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