Oil Drop Experiment

Experiment created by Robert Millikan

Mikayla DeFranks


Victoria Lacey

Robert Millikan

  • Robert Millikan was born on March 22, 1868. 
  • He attended Oberlin College to get his masters degree in Physics. Following college he taught elementary physics.
  • In 1910, Millikan became a physics professor at the University of Chicago.

Robert Millikan

  • Millikan won the Nobel Prize in 1923.
  • He retired in 1946. Following his retirement he was an enthusiastic tennis player. 
  • Millikan died on December 19, 1953 in San Marino, California. 

Vocabulary to Know

  • Atomizer: An apparatus for reducing liquids into a fine spray.
  • Coulombs: The standard unit for electricity in the SI system. 
  • Quantify: to determine, indicate, or express the quantity of. 

Oil Drop Experiment Purpose

The purpose of the oil drop experiment is to determine the size of the charge of an electron. 


  • negatively charged metal plate
  • positively charged metal plate
  • oil
  • atomizer 
  • viewing microscope
  •  light source

How It's Done

  1. Millikan sprays oil with the atomizer into the apparatus.
  2. The oil falls to the bottom of the apparatus. 
  3. As the oil falls, it becomes of electric charge, depending on how high the voltage is on the apparatus. 

The Results

  • The charges were found to be multiples of a number he determined to be 1.64 x 10^ -19 Coulombs. 

What This Means For Science

Millikan's oil drop experiment helped quantify the charge of an electron which contributed to our understanding of the atom and the atomic theory. 

Millikan's Oil Drop Experiment

Works Cited

  • http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1923/millikan-bio.html
  • http://regentsprep.org/Regents/physics/phys03/amillikan/
  • https://www.britannica.com/science/Millikan-oil-drop-experiment

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Oil Drop Experiment

by torilacey6499


Public - 9/13/16, 5:57 PM