Hoo Sze Yen

Physics SPM 2010

CHAPTER 3:
FORCES AND PRESSURE
3.1

Pressure

Pressure is the force
which acts normal per
unit area of contact.
P=

F
A

where P = pressure [Pa]
F = force [N]
A = area [m2]

3.2

Units of pressure
Unit
Note
Pa
SI unit
N m-2
Equivalent to Pa
N cm-2
cm Hg
m water
atm
1 atm = atmospheric pressure at sea level
bar
1 bar = 1 atm

For
atmospheric
pressure
only

Pressure in Liquids

Pressure in liquids are not dependent on the size or shape of the container; only on its
depth.
P = hρ g

where P = pressure [Pa]
h = height of liquid [m]
ρ = density of liquid [kg m-3]
g = gravitational acceleration [m s-2]

3.3

Atmospheric and Gas Pressure

3.3.1 Atmospheric Pressure

Atmospheric pressure is measured by barometers.

Fortin barometer
(simple mercury barometer)
Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

Aneroid barometer
Page 1 of 8

Hoo Sze Yen

Physics SPM 2010

Atmospheric pressure measured by a simple mercury barometer can be calculated using
the formula P=hρg.
Standard atmospheric pressure at sea level is usually 76 cm Hg or 10 m water. It can
also be expressed as 1 bar.
Note: cm Hg is an accepted unit of atmospheric pressure. Other similar units involving
different liquids are also accepted.

For example:
Given that h = 76 cm and the density of mercury is
13 600 kg m-3:
Answer:
Atmospheric pressure = 76 cm Hg
State the answer in Pascal:
P = hρg = 0.76(13 600)(10) = 103 360 Pa

3.3.2 Gas Pressure

Gas pressure can be measured using manometers and Bourdon gauges.

Manometer

Bourdon gauge

In manometers, pressure can be calculated based on pressure equilibrium.
For example:
Pressure at point A = Pressure at point C
Gas pressure = Atmospheric pressure + hρg

Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

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Hoo Sze Yen

3.4

Physics SPM 2010

Pascal’s Principle

Pascal’s Principle dictates that pressure which is exerted onto the surface of a fluid in a
closed container will be transferred uniformly throughout the entire fluid.

F1 F2
=
A1 A2

A2

A1
F1

F2

All hydraulic systems are built based on Pascal’s Principle.

3.4.1 Hydraulic jack





When the lever is pushed downwards, valve A closes while valve B opens.
Pressure is transferred to the larger cylinder and creates a large force to lift the car.
When the lever is pulled upwards, valve B closes while valve A opens. The hydraulic
oil flows out from the tank to fill the space in the small cylinder.
As every movement downwards by the lever creates a small movement upwards for
the large piston, the lever needs to be pushed and pulled repeatedly before the car can
be raised to a certain height required.
The car can be lowered down by opening the release valve so that the hydraulic oil
can flow back into the tank.

Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

Page 3 of 8

Hoo Sze Yen

Physics SPM 2010

3.4.2 Hydraulic brake




When the driver steps on the brake pedal, the piston in the main cylinder transfers
pressure through the hydraulic oil in the cylinders.
Pressure is transferred uniformly through the hydraulic oil.
The pistons in the slave cylinders are larger, therefore a large amount of force is
transferred to the brake pads.
The brake pads transfer the large amount of force onto the disc so that the rotation of
the tire is slowed down.

3.4.3 Hydraulic pump


A hydraulic machine uses a hydraulic pump to transfer hydraulic liquid from one
vessel into a large cylinder to create a movement.
The above diagram shows a hydraulic pump used to move the arm of a crane.

Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

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Hoo Sze Yen

3.5

Physics SPM 2010

Archimedes’ Principle

Archimedes’ principle dictates that when an object is partially or fully immersed in a
fluid, the object undergoes a buoyant force which is equal to the weight of the fluid
displaced
Buoyant force = Weight of fluid displaced
= V ρg
where V = volume of fluid displaced [m3]
ρ = density of fluid [kg m-3]
g = gravitational acceleration [m s-2]

If the object is floating stationary:
Weight of object = Weight of fluid displaced
mg = Vρg

Buoyant force
Weight of object

3.5.1 Submarine
The buoyant force acting on the submarine is always the same because the weight of fluid
displaced is always the same.

When water is pumped into the ballast
tank, the weight of the submarine increases.
When the weight of the submarine is
greater than the buoyant force, the
submarine sinks.

Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

When water is pumped out of the ballast
tank and replaced with air, the weight of
the submarine decreases. When the weight
of the submarine is less than the buoyant
force, the submarine floats.

Page 5 of 8

Hoo Sze Yen

Physics SPM 2010

3.5.2 Hydrometer
A hydrometer is used to measure the relative density of a liquid.

When the hydrometer floats stationary on the surface of the liquid,
Weight of the hydrometer = Weight of the liquid displaced
mg = Vρg
where m = mass of the hydrometer [kg]
V = volume of liquid displaced [m3]
ρ = density of liquid [kg m-3]
g = gravitational acceleration [m s-2] 
The higher the hydrometer floats, the denser the liquid. 
The lower the hydrometer floats, the less dense the liquid.

3.5.3 Hot air balloon

A hot air balloon displaces a large volume of air.
When the weight of the balloon is less than the upward thrust, the hot air balloon will
move upwards.

Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

Page 6 of 8

Hoo Sze Yen

Physics SPM 2010

3.5.4 Ships
TF = Tropical freshwater
F = Freshwater
T = Tropical ocean
S = Summer ocean
W = Winter ocean
WNA = Winter in North
Atlantic Ocean
Ships are marked with Plimsoll lines at the sides as a guide on the maximum load the
ship can bear in different conditions.

3.6

Bernoulli’s Principle

Bernoulli’s principle dictates that when the velocity of a flowing fluid increases, the
pressure at that point decreases.
Uniform tube:

(a) When a uniform tube with one end stopped is filled with water, the levels in all three
vertical tubes are the same.
Water pressure at A = Water pressure at B = Water pressure at C
(b) When the stopper is removed, it is found that the water levels are decreasing from P
to Q to R.
Water pressure at A > Water pressure at B > Water pressure at C
This is because water flows from high pressure to low pressure.
Venturi tube:

Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

Page 7 of 8

Hoo Sze Yen

Physics SPM 2010

(a) When a Venturi tube with one end stopped is filled with water, the levels in all three
vertical tubes are the same.
Water pressure at X = Water pressure at Y = Water pressure at Z
(b) When the stopper is removed, it is found that the water levels are the lowest at Y and
the highest at X.
Water pressure at X > Water pressure at Z > Water pressure at Y
The tube cross-section at Y is the smallest, therefore water travels at the fastest
velocity at tube Y. Therefore, the pressure at Y is the lowest.
The water velocity in tube X and Z are the same because they have the same crosssection area. However, the pressure gradient still decreases from D to E to F, which is
why the water level at Z is lower than at X.

3.6.1 Aerofoil


3.6.2 Carburetor

As the aerofoil shape cuts through the air, the air is
forced to travel at a higher speed on top of the
aerofoil compared to below the aerofoil.
The high velocity area causes the air to have low
pressure.
Therefore, the higher pressure area pressures
against the aerofoil towards the lower pressure area
causing a lifting force.



Carburetor mixes petrol and air for burning
in the engine cylinder.
When air flows through the narrower part of
the tube, the velocity increases thus the
pressure decreases. An area with low
pressure is formed at X.
The atmospheric pressure, which is greater,
pushes the petrol out from the jet.
Petrol and air are mixed to create a spray.

3.6.3 Bunsen Burner



Chapter 3: Forces and Pressure

Gas flows out through the narrow jet at a very high velocity.
A low-pressured area is formed at X.
The air outside at atmospheric pressure flows in and mixes
with gas to light it.
Oxygen supply which is enough from the air will ensure a
complete burning to produce a hotter flame and less
luminous.
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