Why Pendulum Clocks Are Not Suitable For Spaceships?


If you’re wondering, for some reason, why pendulum clocks are not suitable for spaceships. We’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll go over different types of pendulum clocks and see which is suitable for spaceships and which isn’t.

Mechanical Pendulum clocks won’t function properly in space, on the other hand, battery-powered clocks can work properly in space.

Let’s go deep into this and see how each type functions and why it can or can’t function in outer space.

Pendulum Clocks

There are two major types of pendulum clocks. Firstly, the older mechanical type and secondly, the more commonly used battery-powered pendulum clocks.

Let’s talk about mechanical pendulum clocks and see how they function and why they won’t be able to work in outer space.

Mechanical Pendulum Clocks

Mechanical pendulum clocks are quite obsolete now, as a result, they are hardly seen anywhere. The reason why this type of pendulum clock doesn’t work in outer space is how it functions, let’s talk about it.

This type of clock works on the principle of conservation of energy. Which means that the energy supplied to the system remains constant but it changes form. Mechanical pendulum clocks require them to be wound which results in the storage of energy which can be used to function the clock.

pendulum clock,Why Pendulum Clocks Are Not Suitable For Spaceships?

The main components of a mechanical pendulum clock

  • A dial and a set of hands to display the time.
  • Weights for storing potential energy.
  • A set of power gears.
  • A set of timekeeping gears.
  • A pendulum and an escapement.

How do Mechanical Pendulum Clocks work?

The weight is used to store potential energy which is then transferred to the clock mechanism. The clock requires winding for the potential energy to be stored. The power gears are used to convert the potential energy and use it to function the clock, the heavier the weight the more energy will be stored and the clock will function for more time without requiring it to be wound.  Timekeeping gears are used to drive the different hands of the clock for showing proper time. Finally, the pendulum and escapement are used for regulation and proper syncing of time with the rest of the system.

Due to the energy required is already fulfilled by the potential energy stored in the weights. This type of clock system does not require electrical energy to be powered, but there are some drawbacks. The clocks, once wound, might keep on running for several days. But after some specific time, they will require to be wound once more which is a hassle in itself. Furthermore, they are not nearly as accurate as their electrical counterparts.

Why are Mechanical Pendulum Clocks Not Suitable For Space?

So to give you a clear answer, mechanical pendulum clocks do not work properly in space, due to two reasons. Firstly, the temperature in space is very low, about -270 degrees celsius. This results in the material of the pendulum to contract by a lot. If the clock is calibrated for showing time on Earth, then the readings will be off by a lot. This happens because for different lengths of a pendulum the time-period is different. Due to this, the time measured will also be different. Another main reason is the fact that there is very low gravity in outer space. Mechanical Pendulum Clocks mainly operate with the help of potential energy. If the gravity is nearly zero, less or no energy will be transferred to the clock mechanism. Thus, the energy will not be able to convert in order to power the clock system.

Battery-Powered Pendulum Clocks

Battery pendulum clocks or electrical pendulum clocks are more commonly used nowadays, and they are way more practical. These clocks are considered very accurate and require really little electrical power to work.

battery-powered pendulum clock,Why Pendulum Clocks Are Not Suitable For Spaceships?

How Do Battery Pendulum Clocks Work?

Quartz clocks were invented when it was discovered that Quartz had piezoelectric properties. This means if it is squeezed it will produce a small voltage. This goes the other way around, meaning if a voltage is passed through a quartz clock, it will vibrate. Essentially, quartz clocks are battery powered but they use very little electricity. In most cases, the batteries will run a couple of years before giving up. The battery provides voltage to the circuit which then transfers this voltage to the crystal and makes it vibrate. The circuit then converts the vibration signals into electric pulses. These electric pulses are used to drive the electric stepping motor which in turn moves the clock hands.

Due to the fact that this type works on electrical power, they are very accurate in timekeeping. But it does lose some accuracy overtime. We have talked about it in detail in our article over here. Feel free to check it out.

Why are Battery-Powered Pendulum Clocks Suitable For Space?

Battery-powered pendulum clocks work very differently when compared to Mechanical type. Due to the fact that battery-powered pendulum clocks do not work on mechanical parts for timekeeping, they can work properly. This type does not need power from potential energy to work, that’s why gravity has no effect on it.

Conclusion

This article made it very clear that mechanical pendulum clocks can’t work properly in space, due to two reasons:

  • Gravity
  • Contraction of material

On the other hand, electrical pendulum clocks can work properly. Because they do not depend on potential energy and do not work out time mechanically.

AK Iqbal

A University of London’ student with a passion for writing. Clocks have always intrigued me and the importance that they have in our lives is way beyond phenomenal. So, on this site, I write everything about clocks, everything from answering any clock-related queries that you might have along with recommending some of my favorite clocks accordingly. Moreover, I will also be conducting some researches on clock related topics and sharing the things that I learn. So stay tuned to ohmyclock for all the fun clocks related content

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