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content provider: the Nuffield Curriculum Centre
written by the Nuffield Curriculum Centre
This resource contains a set of eight introductory experiments on wave reflections, appropriate for use in high school and middle school.  Use of  the ripple tank can be a powerful tool to help students visualize wave behavior in general.  In these basic experiments, students are introduced to ripple tanks and gain confidence in using them by doing some simple experiments with pulses.

SEE RELATED ITEMS on this page for a Teachers' Guide on using ripple tanks, and for ripple tank experiments for the more advanced classroom.

This item is part of a much larger collection of physics/astronomy experiments, sponsored by the UK's Institute of Physics and funded by the Nuffield Curriculum Centre.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Reflection and Refraction (Sound)
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
- High School
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- Laboratory
- New teachers
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© 2006 The Nuffield Foundation
Additional information is available.
activities, experiment, hands-on, practical physics, ripple tank, strobe tank, transverse waves, wave experiments, wave reflection, waves
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 20, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 16, 2020 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 17, 2007

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
  • 6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 9-12: 11B/H5. The behavior of a physical model cannot ever be expected to represent the full-scale phenomenon with complete accuracy, not even in the limited set of characteristics being studied. The inappropriateness of a model may be related to differences between the model and what is being modeled.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: How Waves Move and Interact: Reflection, Refraction, Interference

Ripple tanks provide a powerful way to help students visualize wave behavior in general.  This set of 8 introductory labs allows students to become comfortable with ripple tanks by doing some simple experiments with pulses.  Appropriate for grades 6-12, with supervision.

Link to Unit:
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AIP Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre, (2006), WWW Document, (https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks).
Nuffield Curriculum Centre, Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks (2006), <https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks>.
APA Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. (2007, October 17). Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks
Chicago Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks. October 17, 2007. https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks (accessed 15 July 2024).
MLA Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks. 2006. 17 Oct. 2007. Nuffield Curriculum Centre. 15 July 2024 <https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks>.
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@misc{ Author = "Nuffield Curriculum Centre", Title = {Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {15 July 2024}, Month = {October 17, 2007}, Year = {2006} }
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%Q Nuffield Curriculum Centre %T Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks %D October 17, 2007 %U https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks %O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source %A Nuffield Curriculum Centre, %D October 17, 2007 %T Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks %V 2024 %N 15 July 2024 %8 October 17, 2007 %9 text/html %U https://spark.iop.org/collections/basic-experiments-ripple-tanks

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Practical Physics: Basic Experiments with Ripple Tanks:

Is Supplemented By Practical Physics: Using Ripple Tanks

This is a link to the Teachers' Guide on acquiring and setting up strobe ripple tanks in the classroom.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is By The Same Author and Covers a Similar Topic As Practical Physics: Mechanical waves and superposition - Ripples Crossing

This set of four experiment explores the phenomenon known as wave "interference", through use of ripple tanks and strobe lights.

relation by Caroline Hall

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