Circulation Motion | Acceleration | Mass

In physics, circular motion is rotation along a circle: a circular path or a circular orbit.

It can be uniform, that is, with constant angular rate of rotation, or non-uniform, that is, with a changing rate of rotation. The rotation around a fixed axis of a three-dimensional body involves circular motion of its parts. We can talk about circular motion of an object if we ignore its size, so that we have the motion of a point mass in a plane. For example, the center of mass of a body can undergo circular motion. Examples of circular motion are: an artificial satellite orbiting the Earth in geosynchronous orbit, a stone which is tied to a rope and is being swung in circles (cf. hammer throw), a racecar turning through a curve in a race track, an electron moving perpendicular to a uniform magnetic field, a gear turning inside a mechanism. Circular motion is accelerated even if the angular rate of rotation is constant, because the object's velocity vector is constantly changing direction. Such change in direction of velocity involves acceleration of the moving object by a centripetal force, which pulls the moving object towards the center of the circular orbit. Without this acceleration, the object would move in a straight line, according to Newton's laws of motion.

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1 Formulas for uniform circular motion 2 Constant speed 3 Variable speed 4 Description of circular motion using polar coordinates 5 Description of circular motion using complex numbers 6 External links 7 See also

[edit] Formulas for uniform circular motion

Figure 1: Vector relationships for uniform circular motion; vector Ω representing the rotation is normal to the plane of the orbit. For motion in a circle of radius R, the circumference of the circle is C = 2π R. If the period for one rotation is T, the angular rate of rotation ω is:

• The speed of the object traveling the circle is

• The angle θ swept out in a time t is:

• The acceleration due to change in the direction of the velocity is found by noticing that the velocity completely rotates direction in the same time T the object takes for one rotation. Thus, the velocity vector sweeps out a path of length 2π v every T seconds, or:

• and is directed radially inward. The vector relationships are shown in Figure 1. The axis of rotation is shown as a vector Ω perpendicular to the plane of the orbit and with a magnitude ω = dθ / dt. The direction of Ω is chosen using the right-hand rule. With this convention for depicting rotation, the velocity is given by a vector cross product as

which is a vector perpendicular to both Ω and r ( t ), tangential to the orbit, and of magnitude ω R. Likewise, the acceleration is given by

which is a vector perpendicular to both Ω and v ( t ) of magnitude ω |v| = ω2 R and directed exactly opposite to r ( t ).

[edit] Constant speed
In the simplest case the speed, mass and radius are constant. Consider a body of one kilogram, moving in a circle of radius one metre, with an angular velocity of one radian per second.
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The speed is one meter per second The inward acceleration is one metre per square second. It is subject to a centripetal force of one kilogram metre per square second, which is one newton. The momentum of the body is one kg·m·s−1. The moment of inertia is one kg·m2.

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The angular momentum is one kg·m2·s−1. The kinetic energy is 1/2 joule. The circumference of the orbit is 2π (~ 6.283) metres. The period of the motion is 2π seconds per turn. The frequency is (2π)−1 hertz. From the point of view of quantum mechanics, the system is in an excited state having quantum number ~ 9.48×1035. The speed is v = r·ω. The centripetal (inward) acceleration is a = r·ω 2 = r −1·v 2. The centripetal force is F = m·a = r·m·ω 2 = r−1·m·v 2. The momentum of the body is p = m·v = r·m·ω. The moment of inertia is I = r 2·m. The angular momentum is L = r·m·v = r 2·m·ω = I·ω. The kinetic energy is E = 2−1·m·v 2 = 2−1·r 2·m·ω 2 = (2·m)−1·p 2 = 2−1·I·ω 2 = (2·I)−1·L 2 . The circumference of the orbit is 2·π·r. The period of the motion is T = 2·π·ω −1. The frequency is f = T −1 . (Instead of letter f, the frequency is often denoted by the Greek letter ν, which however is almost indistinguishable from the letter v used here for velocity). The quantum number is J = 2·π·L h−1

Then consider a body of mass m, moving in a circle of radius r, with an angular velocity of ω.
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[edit] Variable speed
In the general case, circular motion requires that the total force can be decomposed into the centripetal force required to keep the orbit circular, and a force tangent to the circle, causing a change of speed. The magnitude of the centripetal force depends on the instantaneous speed. In the case of an object at the end of a rope, subjected to a force, we can decompose the force into a radial and a lateral component. The radial is either outward or inward.

[edit] Description of circular motion using polar coordinates

Figure 2: Polar coordinates for circular trajectory. On the left is a unit circle showing the changes and in the unit vectors and for a small increment dθ in angle θ.

During circular motion the body moves on a curve that can be described in polar coordinate system as a fixed distance R from the center of the orbit taken as origin, oriented at an angle θ (t) from some reference direction. See Figure 2. The displacement vector is the radial vector from the origin to the particle location:


is the unit vector parallel to the radius vector at time t and pointing away from the as well, namely . It is

origin. It is handy to introduce the unit vector orthogonal to customary to orient

to point in the direction of travel along the orbit.

The velocity is the time derivative of the displacement:

Because the radius of the circle is constant, the radial component of the velocity is zero. The unit vector has a time-invariant magnitude of unity, so as time varies its tip always lies on a circle . If the particle displacement rotates

of unit radius, with an angle θ the same as the angle of

through an angle dθ in time dt, so does , describing an arc on the unit circle of magnitude dθ. See the unit circle at the left of Figure 2. Hence:

where the direction of the change must be perpendicular to because any change d in the direction of

(or, in other words, along . The sign is


would change the size of

positive, because an increase in dθ implies the object and Hence the velocity becomes:

have moved in the direction of


The acceleration of the body can also be broken into radial and tangential components. The acceleration is the time derivative of the velocity:

The time derivative of

is found the same way as for

. Again,

is a unit vector and its tip implies

traces a unit circle with an angle that is π/2 + θ. Hence, an increase in angle dθ by traces an arc of magnitude dθ, and as is orthogonal to , we have:

where a negative sign is necessary to keep

orthogonal to

. (Otherwise, the angle between

and would decrease with increase in dθ.) See the unit circle at the left of Figure 2. Consequently the acceleration is:

The centripetal acceleration is the radial component, which is directed radially inward:

while the tangential component changes the magnitude of the velocity:

[edit] Description of circular motion using complex numbers
Circular motion can be described using complex numbers. Let the x axis be the real axis and the y axis be the imaginary axis. The position of the body can then be given as z, a complex "vector":

where i is the imaginary unit, and

is the angle of the complex vector with the real axis and is a function of time t. Since the radius is constant:

where a dot indicates time differentiation. With this notation the velocity becomes:

and the acceleration becomes:

The first term is opposite to the direction of the displacement vector and the second is perpendicular to it, just like the earlier results.

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