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Momentum and Impulse

The momentum of a particle of mass

moving with velocity

, is

. It is a vector quantity likevelocity and is measured in Newton-seconds (N s).

Example One

Find the magnitude of the momentum possessed by a car of 750kg moving with a speed of

25

.

momentum

When dealing with momentum it is very important that you have the correct units, rememberthat mass is in kg and velocity is in

.

7502518,750 Ns

If the velocity of a body changes from

to

, then logically we must assume that themomentum of the body will change. Then change in momentum can be quantified (measured)by finding the initial momentum,

and the final momentum,

.

Example Two

Find the change in momentum of a body of mass 4kg when its speed changes from:I.

4

to

7

in the same direction.II.

6

to

2

in the opposite direction.When dealing with questions like this it always useful to sketch diagrams to illustrate themathematical concept.I.

In this example we consider movement to the right to be positive, although it’s notimportant in this example it will in the next.

initial momentum4416 N s

inal momentum4728 N s

Therefore the change in momentum is

12 N s

.

4

4

−1

initially

4

7

−1

finally

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II.

In this second example we will also consider the movement to the right to be positiveand movement to the left will be negative.

initial momentum4624 N s

4−2−8 N s

The momentum changes from 24Ns to -8Ns which istherefore a change of 32Ns.

Impulse

The impulse of a force is defined as length of time a force acts (i.e.

impulse

). We alsoknow that

, therefore we can assume that;

impulse

In our previous tutorial on uniform acceleration we are told that;

−

We can substitute this into our equation for impulse and we get;

impulse−

−change in momentum

Therefore;

impulse of a force change in momentum

Conservation of Momentum

In the previous tutorial on connected particles we came across Newton’s Third Law of Motion.When a collision occurs between two particles A and B the force exerted by A on B is equal andopposite to the force exerted by B on A. Without any other external forces not only are theforces equal and opposite but the momentum of A and B are also equal in magnitude andopposite in direction.When these two bodies collide the gain in momentum of one body will be accompanied by adecline in momentum of the other body. Therefore the sum of the momentum of A and B beforea collision will be equal to the sum of the momentum after the collision. This is essentially the

principle of conservation of (linear) momentum

.As with the previous examples a diagram is often essential when attempting questionsinvolving the collision of particles. You should usually draw a diagram representing the

4

6

−1

initially

4

2

−1

finally

3 © math-e-matics.co.uk 2008

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condition before the collision and then draw a second diagram after the collision has happened.Remember that since momentum is a vector quantity, include positive and negative signs,otherwise you will get an incorrect answer.When a collision occurs usually one of three things occurs;1.

The two bodies coalesce (join together) in this instance the two bodies becomeone and move at a common velocity.2.

The two bodies move in the same direction but at different velocities and asindividual particles.3.

One of the bodies rebounds and travels in the opposite direction.

Example Three

A body of mass 5kg moving on a smooth horizontal surface at

4

, collides with a secondbody of 3kg which is at rest. After the collision the bodies coalesce. Find the common speed ofthe bodies after impact.If we assume that the velocities to the right are positive we get the following momentum beforethe collision;

initial momentum543020 N s

inal momentum 88 N s

By considering the principle of conservation of momentum;

208

2082.5

Therefore the speed of the coalesce body after the collision is

2.5

.

5

3

at rest

4

−1

before collision

8

−1

after collision

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