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Physics > Oscillations > Damped Simple Harmonic Motion

Damped Simple Harmonic Motion

We know that when we swing a pendulum, it will eventually come to rest due to air pressure and friction at the support. This motion is damped simple harmonic motion. Let’s understand what it is and how it is different from linear simple harmonic motion.

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Damped Simple Harmonic Motion

When the motion of an oscillator reduces due to an external force, the oscillator and its motion are damped. These periodic motions of gradually decreasing amplitude are damped simple harmonic motion. An example of a damped simple harmonic motion is a simple pendulum.

In the damped simple harmonic motion, the energy of the oscillator dissipates continuously. But for a small damping, the oscillations remain approximately periodic. The forces which dissipate the energy are generally frictional forces.

Damped Simple Harmonic Motion

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Expression of damped simple harmonic motion

Let’s take an example to understand what a damped simple harmonic motion is. Consider a block of mass connected to an elastic string of spring constant k. In an ideal situation, if we push the block down a little and then release it, its angular frequency of oscillation is ω = √k/ m.

However, in practice, an external force (air in this case) will exert a damping force on the motion of the block and the mechanical energy of the block-string system will decrease. This energy that is lost will appear as the heat of the surrounding medium.

The damping force depends on the nature of the surrounding medium. When we immerse the block in a liquid, the magnitude of damping will be much greater and the dissipation energy is much faster. Thus, the damping force is proportional to the velocity of the bob and acts opposite to the direction of the velocity. If the damping force is Fd, we have,

F= -bυ                              (I)

where the constant b depends on the properties of the medium(viscosity, for example) and size and shape of the block. Let’s say O is the equilibrium position where the block settles after releasing it. Now, if we pull down or push the block a little, the restoring force on the block due to spring is F= -kx, where x is the displacement of the mass from its equilibrium position. Therefore, the total force acting on the mass at any time t is, F = -kx -bυ.

Now, if a(t) is the acceleration of mass m at time t, then by Newton’s Law of Motion along the direction of motion, we have

ma(t) = -kx(t) – bυ(t)                        (II)

Here, we are not considering vector notation because we are only considering the one-dimensional motion. Therefore, using first and second derivatives of s(t), v(t) and a(t), we have,

m(d2x/dt2) + b(dx/dt) + kx =0                      (III)

This equation describes the motion of the block under the influence of a damping force which is proportional to velocity. Therefore, this is the expression of damped simple harmonic motion. The solution of this expression is of the form

x(t) = Ae-bt/2m cos(ω′t + ø)                        (IV)

where A is the amplitude and ω′ is the angular frequency of damped simple harmonic motion given by,

ω′ = √(k/m – b2/4m)                             (V)

The function x(t) is not strictly periodic because of the factor e-bt/2m which decreases continuously with time. However, if the decrease is small in one-time period T, the motion is then approximately periodic. In a damped oscillator, the amplitude is not constant but depends on time. But for small damping, we may use the same expression but take amplitude as Ae-bt/2m

∴ E(t) =1/2 kAe-bt/2m                                    (VI)

This expression shows that the damping decreases exponentially with time. For a small damping, the dimensionless ratio (b/√km) is much less than 1. Obviously, if we put b = 0, all equations of damped simple harmonic motion will turn into the corresponding equations of undamped motion.

Solved Examples For You:

Q: When we immerse an oscillating block of mass in a liquid, the magnitude of damping will

a) decrease    b) increase    c) remain the same    d) none of the above

Solution: b) The magnitude of damping will increase when we immerse the block in a liquid and its dissipation energy as well. Damping is proportional to the velocity of the block.

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Tamsin AhmedSubhashMridul Bhaskaranju Recent comment authors
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what is the expression for instantaneos amplitude of damped harmonic oscillator

Mridul Bhaskar
Mridul Bhaskar


Patrick raj
Patrick raj



How to find angular velocity and damping constant


you should use antial condition

Tamsin Ahmed
Tamsin Ahmed

Under what condition a Damped Harmonic Motion can be converted to a Simple
Harmonic Motion? Use equations if necessary

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