“Adding real educational value to the science lab”


Virtual Experiments have been recorded at Reading in physics and in other areas of science. Some examples are listed below. In the first section experiments most suitable for schools are listed, following this are experiments more suited to higher levels. The repertoire of VEs is constantly being increased.

  1. Reflection and refraction.
    This experiment, which in its simplest form is suitable for GCSE school work also offers challenges even to final-year undergraduates. It studies the refraction of laser beam through a glass block. A steerable protractor allows angles to be measured. When the critical angle is exceeded, total internal reflection occurs.
  2. Rate of curing Resin and Hardener
    When resin is mixed with hardener it starts an irreversible process in which the long chains of the resin become tangled changing the solution to a solid. In this virtual experiment the student measures this viscosity changes over time.
  3. Fungus growth
    The student studies the growth rate and pattern of two different fungi over several days of real time. The clock can be speeded, stopped and reversed and a steerable ruler permits measurements to be made.
  4. Photosynthesis
    By measuring the rate at which pond weed gives off oxygen bubbles with varying light intensity, It is possible to measure the rate at which photosynthesis is occurring.
  5. Transpiration
    The volume of water transpired by Viburnum davidii depends on a number of factors, change the light intensity and air speed and measure the speed a bubble moves along a capilary.
  6. Viscosity of Glycerol
    Students measure how viscosity changes at various temperatures, Viscosity is measured by timing how long the Meniscus level drops down a thin rod.
  7. Light-dependent resistor
    The LDR is a semiconductor device whose resistance decreases as the light level rises. Measuring the resistance as a function of light level allows the characteristic properties of the LDR to be established.
  8. Hookes Law
    A spring is extended by a load, students vary the load and measure the extension. Using Hookes law the spring constant can be found. GCSE level worksheets are here Hooke work sheet (pdf) Hooke work sheet (doc).
  9. Resistivity
    Meassure the resistivity of a length of wire using a voltage devider circuit. Remmeber to turn on all the equipment including the power supply. This highlights some of the difficulties of obtaining a value for the resistivity in this 'simple' school experiment.
  10. Chemical Clock
    Investigate the time periods of Belousov–Zhabotinsky and Iodine chemical clocks at different concentrations.

Higher level experiments

The following are experiments more suited to higher levels, foundation and degree level. Some of these use adobe shockwave which will need to be installed inorder for them to work correctly.

  1. Steel rule diffraction (get shockwave)
    Students measure the diffraction pattern of a laser produced by the lines on a steel rule. Using the line spacing students can calculate the wave length of laser.
  2. Microwave single slit diffraction
    Microwave diffraction through a gap, students can map the angular distribution and compare with the theory of single-slit diffraction.
  3. Water based diffraction of a laser (get shockwave)
    Use laser diffraction by a refractive index grating in water to calculate the wave length of the laser. The grating is produced by an ultra sound standing wave in water. Students can measure the fringe spacing for different frequencies of ultra sound to improve your measurement.
  4. X-Ray Apparatus Startup Training (get shockwave)
    Accurately models the startup procedure of x-ray apparatus, allowing staff or students to get to grips with the startup procedure and gives a hands on feel for the equipment.
  5. Oscilloscope Introduction (get shockwave)
    A Breif introduction on how to use an oscilloscope, Teaches you the purpose and how to use some of the dials and controls commonly found on oscilloscopes