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Centripetal Force Lab

Gage Ames
Em DeLarme and Zack Armagost Physics - Period 2

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To be able to understand and verify the relationship centripetal force, mass, velocity, and the radius of orbit for a body that is undergoing centripetal acceleration.

Background Information
An object moving in the same direction is not necessarily undergoing acceleration. If the object changes speed while moving in the same direction there is acceleration (or deceleration). On the other hand, if the object moves at a constant speed in the same direction, there is no acceleration. This does not mean that constant speed always indicates no acceleration, however. An object that moves at a constant speed and changes direction is also experiencing acceleration even though its speed never changes. Both the acceleration produced by changing speed and the acceleration produced by changing direction require a net force. This force that is produced in called the centripetal force and the acceleration that causes a change in direction is called centripetal acceleration. Centripetal force means center seeking. It is the force responsible for keeping an object in circular motion. If there were no centripetal force the object would fly off at a tangent because of Newtons First Law. This is demonstrated by spinning an object on a string. If the string were to break or be cut, the object would fly out of its circular path at a tangent. An equation can be used to represent the relationship between centripetal force, mass, velocity, and the radius of the circle. This equation is:
Fc = mv 2 r

Equipment and Setup

Plastic tube Nylon cord Several rubber stoppers of different sizes Hanging masses Stopwatch Meter stick Tape
Nylon cord Rubber stopper Plastic Tube Person Tape


Hanging Mass

Procedural Summary
String a plastic tube on the nylon cord and place a rubber stopper on one end and a hanging mass on the other end. Hold the plastic tube and spin the rubber stopper above the head in a circular path. Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes to make 20 rotations. Change the rubber stopper mass, length of string above the rube (radius), and mass of the hanging mass and repeat to see how these factors affect the results.

StopperVarying RadiusVarying MassVarying
Trial # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Hanging Mass (g) 100 150 200 250 300 100 100 100 100 100 200 200 200 200 200 Mass of Stopper (g) 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.3 45.2 13.1 28.4 39.6 72.5 Total Time (s) 18.72 15.31 14.5 12.87 11.25 17.16 17.69 18.65 22.94 23.78 14.39 9.04 10.34 11.35 15.53 Radius (m) 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.45 0.6 0.75 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5

Trial # Centripetal Force (N) (100 g/1000)*9.81 m/s2 = 0.981 1.4715 1.962 2.4525 2.943 0.981 0.981 0.981 0.981 0.981 1.962 1.962 Period (s) Circumference (m) 2r = 2*3.14*0.5 m = 3.14 3.14 3.14 3.14 3.14 1.884 2.826 3.768 4.71 6.28 3.14 3.14 Velocity (m/s) 3.14 m/0.936 s= 3.354700855 4.101894187 4.331034483 4.87956488 5.582222222 2.195804196 3.195025438 4.04075067 4.106364429 5.281749369 4.364141765 6.946902655

Vary RadiusVarying Varying Mass

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

18.72 s/20 = 0.936 0.7655 0.725 0.6435 0.5625 0.858 0.8845 0.9325 1.147 1.189 0.7195 0.452

13 14

1.962 1.962

0.517 0.5675

3.14 3.14

6.073500967 5.533039648

ing Stopper







Error Analysis
Some error in this lab may have been caused by the tape moving on the string or the tape not being placed at exactly the right spot to begin with. When we placed the tape and when we spun it, the tape was not in the exact same place. This caused the radius to be longer or shorter depending on if the tape was higher or lower than when it was measured, which would change the time and period. Another source of error is the stopwatch we used. Sometime it would not start or stop correctly. Other times it would stop and start again when the button was only pressed once. This means the timing of the 20 revolutions may not have been the most accurate, which would change our period lengths as well. Finally how we spun the stopper may not have been consistent. The path may have been slightly different or may have been spun faster or slower than necessary. This would change our periods.

Questions and Conclusions


Force of Gravity

Based on these diagrams one can see that the tension is what is actually causing centripetal force to be placed on the stopper as it rotates in circular motion. The mass remained stationary during the trials. This is because the tension applied to it and the force of gravity acting on it were equal. This means the only force left is the tension and centripetal force to keep the stopper rotating.

2. If the string were to break the stopper would fly in a direction tangent to the circle. This means it would be a 90 angle relative to the radius at that point. The reason


for this is that when the string breaks centripetal force is no longer keeping the stopper in circular motion. It will therefore follow its normal path because of Newtons first law. It didnt go straight before because an external force was acting on it, but now that the centripetal force is gone, it will stay in its normal motion path until acted upon by another outside force. When the stopper is in circular motion it has acceleration because its direction is constantly changing. When the string breaks, however, the stopper will move at a constant velocity therefore producing no acceleration. This also means there is an absence of force according to Newtons Second Law. 3. As centripetal force increased, the velocity increased. 4. As the radius of the circle increased, the velocity increased. 5. As the mass of the moving stopper increased, the velocity decreased. 6. The centripetal force would need to decrease. This is because the radius is in the denominator and increasing the denomination with a constant numerator (mass and velocity) causes the quotient (centripetal force) to decrease. Conclusion This was a very successful lab overall. The graphs, the trend lines, and the slope of the trend lines really helped me to understand how changing the different factors in the centripetal force formula affects the results. I was able to verify the relationships in a statistical and visual way. While not always the case, most of the time I was able to visually see how the velocity changed with each trial. This certainly helped me understand the relationship and trends between the variables. Our data was able to show a clear trend as well, so the error must have been minimal. It seems like the correlations of the lines of best fits are close to 1 or -1 as well, so this also shows our data had quite regular trends. If I were to do this experiment again I would be sure to use a more dependable stop watch. Time was wasted when we had to perform trials again due to the stopwatch stopping and then randomly starting. Some students used timers on the internet with their laptops, which was a good idea. I will certainly do this next time.