Centripetal Acceleration Examples In Physics
Centripetal Acceleration Examples In Physics
Centripetal acceleration is an important concept in physics and is essential to understanding how objects move in the world around us. It occurs when a force is applied to an object, causing it to move in a curved path.
In this blog post, we’ll be looking at 10 real-life centripetal acceleration examples in physics and discussing how they work.
From merry-go-rounds to the planets orbiting the sun, these examples demonstrate how centripetal acceleration is present in our everyday lives.
But before you read any further, it might be a good idea to briefly understand Centripetal acceleration. It will help you to understand the examples better. If you want to skip, you can skip by clicking on the link below.
Centripetal Acceleration in Brief
It is the acceleration that occurs when an object moves in a circular path at a constant speed. It is directed towards the center of the circular path and is required to keep the object moving in its circular path.
For Example: When an object moves in a circle, it experiences a force that pulls it toward the center of the circle. This force is called the centripetal force. The object is constantly changing direction as it moves in the circle, so it is also accelerating toward the center of the circle. This acceleration is called centripetal acceleration.
Centripetal Acceleration Formulae
The formula for centripetal acceleration is given:
a = v²/r
a is the centripetal acceleration
v is the velocity (speed) of the object moving in a circular path
r is the radius of the circular path
This formula shows that centripetal acceleration is directly proportional to the square of the velocity and inversely proportional to the radius of the circular path. This means that increasing the velocity of an object moving in a circular path or decreasing the radius of the path will increase the centripetal acceleration required to keep the object moving in the circular path.
Numerical: A car is driving around a curve with a radius of 50 meters at a speed of 20 meters per second. What is the centripetal acceleration of the car?
Solution: We can use the formula for centripetal acceleration to solve this problem:
a = v^2 / r
Putting in the given values, we get:
a = (20 m/s)^2 / 50 m
a = 8 m/s^2
Therefore, the centripetal acceleration of the car is 8 m/s^2. This means that the force required to keep the car moving in a circular path around the curve is 8 times the force of gravity acting on the car.
Note that the units of the formula for centripetal acceleration are in meters per second squared (m/s^2), which is a measure of acceleration.
Now let’s move on to our examples of angular acceleration in real life.
I hope you understood the concept of centripetal acceleration given above. Now let’s look at the 10 real-life centripetal acceleration examples in physics.
Cars driving around a sharp turn
Planets orbiting the sun
Electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom
A washing machine spinning
A tornado or hurricane rotating
A stone tied to a string being swung in a circle
A Ferris wheel in motion
An athlete running around a curved track
Next, we will explore real-life examples of centripetal acceleration one by one.
Roller coasters often have sharp turns and loops, which require centripetal acceleration to keep the passengers in their seats and prevent them from flying off the track. The track is designed so that the forces acting on the passengers always point toward the center of the turn or loop, creating centripetal acceleration.
Now, let’s consider another scenario where such acceleration comes into play.
As a merry-go-round spins, the riders experience centripetal acceleration towards the center of the ride. This is necessary to keep the riders moving in a circular path and prevent them from flying off.
Cars driving around a sharp turn:
As we turn our attention to a different situation, when a car drives around a sharp turn, it experiences centripetal acceleration toward the center of the turn. This acceleration is necessary to keep the car from sliding off the road.
Next up, we have a situation that demonstrates the concept of centripetal acceleration quite clearly.
Planets orbiting the sun:
The force of gravity between a planet and the sun creates centripetal acceleration towards the center of the sun, which keeps the planet in its orbit.
Electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom:
The electrostatic force between the negatively charged electrons and the positively charged nucleus creates centripetal acceleration towards the center of the atom, which keeps the electrons in their orbits.
Continuing our discussion, the next example is a washing machine spinning.
A washing machine spinning:
When a washing machine spins, the drum rotates rapidly, creating centripetal acceleration that keeps the clothes and water inside moving in a circular path.
The spinning motion of a washing machine is a good example of how centripetal acceleration keeps objects moving in a circular path.
A tornado or hurricane rotating:
Tornadoes and hurricanes are rotating storms caused by differences in temperature and pressure in the atmosphere. As warm air rises and cool air sinks, it creates a spinning motion that intensifies as it acquires speed.
This spinning motion generates centripetal acceleration that keeps the storm moving in a circular path. The faster the storm spins, the stronger it becomes. Tornadoes and hurricanes can cause significant damage due to their strong winds and heavy rain.
A stone tied to a string being swung in a circle:
As a stone is tied to a string and swung in a circle, it experiences centripetal acceleration toward the center of the circle. This acceleration is necessary to keep the stone moving in a circular path and prevent it from flying off.
Moving forward, we have a scenario that showcases centripetal acceleration in action.
A Ferris wheel in motion:
A Ferris wheel is a large ride that moves in a circular path consisting of rotating seats attached to a wheel. As the wheel spins, it creates centripetal acceleration that keeps the riders moving in a circular path. The faster the wheel spins, the greater the centripetal acceleration experienced by the riders.
Athlete running around a curved track:
When an athlete runs around a curved track, they experience centripetal acceleration due to the change in direction. This helps them maintain their speed and stay on the track without sliding or falling off.
“Centripetal Acceleration.” Khan Academy,
The article explains the concept of centripetal acceleration, its formula, and its relationship with centripetal force. It also provides several examples of centripetal acceleration in different scenarios.
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