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# LPC Physics Friction

Friction

Introduction: In this lab you will use Newton’s laws of motion and basic kinematics
relationships to determine coefficients of static and kinetic friction for different materials.

Equipment:
 Friction Apparatus
 Friction Blocks: Small Wood, Large Wood, Metal w/ Two Surfaces
 Smart Pulley with Photogate
 Computer, LabPro and Logger Pro 3
 String
 Hooked Mass Set (2)
 Paper Clips
 Rubbing Alcohol

Experiment:
In this experiment you will be using paper clips as small increments of mass. The mass
of the paper clips should be fairly uniform, but don’t count on that! After you are done
adding the paper clips, be sure to find their mass on the electronic balance in the room
Also, you will want to be sure that in each trial you have the same face of the block
touching the board.

Part A: Static Friction

In this part of the experiment, you will measure the coefficient of static friction. To begin
with, you have the board set at the top of the incline as shown below. So that the board
will slide down the incline when you let it go, place masses in the hanging pan until the
board is in equilibrium: e.g. adding any more mass will cause it to slide.

Figure 1 The basic experimental set-up

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1 Very similar. Figure 2 Measuring Static Friction – Block sliding down the incline 4. Adjust the height/position of the pulley so that the string is parallel to the movable board. as in Figure 2. Record this amount of mass as Mlower 2 of 9 .LPC Physics Friction Eq. 2. Remove the pulley from the end of the friction board. 5. Place the block on the board with the string draping over the pulley. You must take great care in determining which direction the force of friction points! 1 1. yet an important difference. Set up the friction apparatus as seen in Figure 1. have someone hold the block at its bottom so that it doesn’t slide down the incline. If necessary. Record the mass of the small wood block and of the mass pan. You may need to use additional clamps and/or tape to do this. Place just enough mass on the pan to keep the block from sliding down the board. and replace it with a smart pulley-photogate. Place the block on the highest part of the board with the string hanging over the pulley and the mass pan hanging freely. Attach a length of string to the small wood block. You should adjust the mass a couple times to be sure you have the very smallest amount of mass (lower limit of mass) necessary to keep the board stationary. Adjust the angle of the friction apparatus to 15o. The other end of the string should connect to the mass pan. 3.

and then add an even smaller amount of mass to the pan if possible. 3 of 9 . 8. 10. Move the block to the bottom of the board as in Figure 3. Choose either 15 or 30 degrees. then remove the last bit of mass that was added. In the analysis section. You have now found the upper limit of mass required to keep the block stationary. Do this at least twice to be as accurate as possible. 9. Repeat steps 0-7 for angles of 30 degrees. As part of your lab report. Repeat this procedure for a metal block. draw a free body diagram showing all the forces acting on the block when it is in equilibrium. Figure 3 Measuring Static Friction – Block sliding up the incline 7. Record this amount of mass as Mupper. Remove all mass from the pan.LPC Physics Friction 6. you will use this diagram to help you calculate the coefficient of static friction for each surface. You should add mass to the pan until you pass the “sliding point”. Slowly add mass to the pan until the block is just about to slide up the board. Be sure to record all data in a neat table! 11.

Add mass to the pan until the block clearly accelerates up the incline. 5.g. Re-set the board to an incline of 15 degrees. If you choose. where enough weight has been added to the hanging pan so that the block is just about to slide up the incline. It is recommended that you use the slope of the velocity vs. Set up the smart pulley system as done in previous labs. In this case the small mass m is the mass of the block. Re-attach the mass pan to the small block. 30 degrees) if time permits. Show that the coefficient of static friction is given by: m sin θ − M μ= Eq. 1. time graph to calculate the experimental acceleration. 2. 2 m cos θ When the block is on the verge of sliding down the incline. not two for each angle and block-type) 2. For each situation draw a free body force diagram and identify all forces that are acting on the block.LPC Physics Friction Part B: Kinetic Friction In this section you will use the Logger Pro software on the lab computers to help determine when the block is traveling with a constant velocity. Be sure to record your value for acceleration! Repeat at least a total of three times so that you can calculate an average and uncertainty for your experimental value. Add enough mass to the pan so that the block slides up the board with constant acceleration. Repeat for a second angle (e. and the larger mass M is the mass of the hanging pan plus added mass. 4. (This means two force diagrams for this part. You will using this to measure the acceleration of the block as it moves either up or down the incline. you can also “hand time” the motion of the block and manually determine the acceleration. Repeat step three for a second surface (e. Write out a balanced-force equation.g. Record the masses used and Use Logger Pro to determine the acceleration of the block. Be sure to record all data in a neat table! Analysis: Part A: Static Friction 1. 6. and set the block on the board as in Figure 8 with the mass pan hanging over the pulley. If we solve for a similar case. the metal or Teflon block). show that 4 of 9 . 3.

1 Waxed wood on dry snow -.25-0.2 Glass on glass 0.4 Waxed wood on wet snow 0. 4.01 0.53 0. 4.94 0. pg. Draw a force diagram identifying all forces acting on the block.06 Ice on ice 0.15 0. determine whether the coefficient of kinetic friction agrees with the values given in the table at the end of this lab. Using the uncertainties in your experimental measurements. Make sure to identify the direction of velocity and acceleration of the block.0 0. Be sure to include uncertainties in the measured and calculated values when you do this comparison.5 0. Part B: Kinetic Friction 1.61 0.04 Serway-Beichner Synovial joints in humans 0. 0.04 Metal on metal (lubricated) 0. Use your values from the lab to calculate the coefficient of static friction and compare with the values given in the table at the end of this lab. 3. 133 5 of 9 . use Newton’s second law to determine the theoretical acceleration of the system. Coefficients of Friction μs μk Steel on steel 0. (Again.36 Rubber on concrete 1.14 0. Write out a balanced- force equation.8 Wood on wood 0. 2.003 5th Ed. From your free body diagram.04 0.LPC Physics Friction M − m sin θ μ= m cos θ 3.57 Aluminum on steel 0. Determine if the experimental and theoretical values agree for each surface.74 0. not two for each angle and block.47 Copper on steel 0. Use the theoretical acceleration and your experimental results to calculate the coefficient of kinetic friction for each surface.1 0.03 Teflon on Teflon 0. draw two force diagrams.

” for we all know that if we try this experiment ourselves (as every inquisitive mind should do). we can then understand what happens when we remove friction from the equation. in the case of air resistance) coming in contact with each other.LPC Physics Friction Theory: While the study of physics prides itself on describing what happens in the “real world”.. i. if we understand the simpler cases of movement without friction. Friction is a force.in the absence of friction. which you will study in great detail starting in Physics 8B. is the link between the idealized world of first-semester physics classes.. fluttering this way and that.but we all know that moving a box of books from one side of the room to the other takes a sustained push across the floor. In some cases it is the “outside force” exerted on an object and changing its motion as described in Newton’s First Law of Motion. seems a wee bit odd. no doubt by now you’ve realized that that isn’t always quite true. All the stuff. If we can understand friction. this force exerted by hand unseen? Indeed it took the genius of Galileo to understand its presence. at the level at which you’re studying. If Newton’s laws were “true”. dropped stuff. much consternation. We’ve all heard about Galileo’s famous (though likely apocryphal) experiment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa: He went to the top. Friction comes from two separate processes: chemical bonding between the surfaces. as well as the intelligent reader who hasn’t taken any physics. and sliding objects come to rest. Alternatively. a world without friction. too. What is this friction then.. We’ve also heard it said that a bowling ball and a feather dropped simultaneously will fall to the Earth at the same rate. it seems. 3. for how could a force exist when there is no one to apply it? Friction is sometimes referred to as a parallel contact force. where it comes from and how it works. we should be able to give just an initial push then sit back and watch the box slide across the floor. Newton’s First Law.. This emphasizes three things: 1. leaned over the edge. we meant in the absence of air resistance” or “.. and you’re likely to get the answer (sounding either arrogant and flippant or somewhat gruff and apologetic) “Oh.” or the caveat “on the Moon..though sometimes left out is the phrase “in vacuum. Frictional forces are directed parallel to two surfaces in contact and/or parallel (but opposite) the direction of motion. This often causes the first-year physics student. and interference between surface irregularities. Physics. 6 of 9 . well. Friction is a result of two objects (or substances. the bowling ball will hit the floor with a loud thump while the feather drifts slowly down. “An object will remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force”. friction (as with any other contact force) arises from the electromagnetic force. it is easier to understand how to account for it when we need to.. even those things of different weights. to reconcile what we’ve been told by the physicists with what we’ve learned through our own experience? Ask a physicist to explain the discrepancy.and with good reason.” So friction. But what causes friction? Ultimately.. is very good at describing what happens in an idealized world. and the real world where things fall at different rates. hit the ground at the same time. Different combinations of materials and different surface preparations determine which process contributes a greater amount to the force.e. How then. 2.

e. This forms a chemical bond between the two atoms. and atoms consist of a very small nucleus of protons and neutrons surrounded by a “cloud” of electrons. Also recall that all atoms wish to have 8 electrons in their outermost shell. between two surfaces. whether they’re rough-cut. μ.LPC Physics Friction Imagine trying to pull a red Radio Flyer™ wagon across a parking lot: if the parking lot is paved with tarmac. The coefficient of friction. The normal force (perpendicular contact force) acting on the object. Additionally. mg.what does it mean for two surfaces to be in contact? Recall from your chemistry classes that all matter is made up of atoms. there will still be friction between them.. the normal force exerted on the object is equal in magnitude to the object’s weight. we can only know beforehand an approximate coefficient of friction for any two surfaces. or a possible range of coefficients. and need a little extra push to keep going. If an object is on a horizontal surface. the same thing happens when you push a box of books across a linoleum floor. This is why even if you polish two surfaces so that all the bumps and ridges are gone. The gravel has edges and points that the wheels must rise up-and- over to continue in a straight line. it will be much easier to drag the wagon than if the lot is covered with gravel.e. polished. and thus. Incidentally. oiled. which takes energy to break. so that when two types of atoms come together they will try to equalize their number of outer-shell electrons by either giving electrons from one atom to the other or by sharing electrons between them both. The macroscopic force of friction depends on two things: 1. θ. of all objects and surfaces. and 2. if you take two surfaces of the same type and polish them so they are completely smooth. only 7 of 9 . So now that we know a bit about friction on the microscopic level.. 3 The coefficient of friction takes into account the type of substances involved. lets take a look at how it behaves on the macroscopic level. the ridges and valleys may catch on each other. i. etc. i. and what the surface features are like. how likely they are to bond with one another. The bottom surface of the box may look something like this: while the surface of the linoleum may look like this: Figure 4 A close-up look at different surfaces Although a majority of each surface is kept from contact with the other at any given time. Because there are so many variables. On a surface tilted at some angle. On a microscopic level. imagine what happens when points from one surface come in direct contact with points on another surface. F friction = μFnormal Eq. Electrons form the outermost portion of all atoms. when you put them together enough points will come in contact so that the two pieces will fuse together and actually become one piece.

. you it seems to take a certain amount of force to get the box moving. Thus we can find the force of static friction by the equation f s = μ s mg = (0. Now back to some real life experiences. How big will the force be (i. or in this case the direction of possible motion. As you get set to push that box of books across the linoleum floor. This is because there are two different coefficients of friction for every combination of surfaces: the coefficient of static friction and the coefficient of kinetic friction.8 m 2 ) = 88. what is its magnitude)? Let’s say that the coefficient of static friction is 0.0 N Ffriction = -88. it may break in two.. a net force of –86. is always larger than the force of kinetic friction. (18kg) box of books on the floor.2 N Figure 6 What if the force of static friction were constant? Because the horizontal forces would be unbalanced.. Imagine a table with nothing on it. and so on.2 N . Fyou Ffriction BOOKS Figure 5 Exerting Force on a Box of Books The force of friction will point right back at you. Like the support force.e.5... A second 5N book on top of the first results in a 10N support force exerted by the table.2 N would cause the box to accelerate toward you at -4.. Now you approach the box and push on it with the fingertips of one hand . The force of static friction acts in a similar manner. so it exerts zero support force. Now place a 5N book on the table. the force of static friction changes depending on what is being asked of it. s What would happen if the frictional force exerted on the box was immediately this maximum value? Fyou = 2. It has nothing to support.it may bend.. the addition of one more 5N book will cause the table to fail. the table will keep increasing by 5N the support force it’s exerting until it’s maximum possible force is reached.. fk. meaning that the maximum force of static friction. The table responds by exerting a support force of 5N on the book. a force of about 2N. and then a smaller force to keep it going. The coefficient of static friction is always larger than the coefficient of kinetic friction. As you keep adding 5N books to the stack. Imagine a 40lb. In what direction will the force of friction point? Remember that friction is parallel and directly opposed to the direction of motion . At this point.5)(18kg )(9. The force of static friction is also variable: fs = μFn only tells us its maximum possible value. there is no friction. fs.2 N BOOKS Fnet = -86.LPC Physics Friction the portion mg sinθ of the object’s weight is directed perpendicular to the surface so the normal force pushes back with the same force Fnormal = mg sin θ .7 m/s2! This does not generally happen when you 8 of 9 . With no external force in the horizontal direction (the direction of motion on the floor). it may crack.

. Because friction opposes motion. the box of books is now moving. For the box to behave as expected. to keep stationary in response to a series of smallish forces that incrementally increase in magnitude until a magnitude of 88. The force of static friction ranges from zero N to its maximum possible value. The force of kinetic friction is not variable. If you apply a force equal to the force of kinetic friction. If you have broken the static friction barrier. and kinetic friction is applied at its maximum (and only) value. or the possibility of motion. the force of friction must increase in step with the force you apply. If you apply a force that is smaller than the force of kinetic friction the box will slow to a stop. the box will accelerate.2N is reached. that is. as directed in the Results section. If you apply a force that is greater than that of kinetic friction.. drawing force diagrams is very important. depending upon what force is being applied. 9 of 9 . Most of the diagrams you will have to draw on your own. it will not always point in the same direction throughout this experiment. For this reason.LPC Physics Friction gently push on a box of books. the box will slide at a constant velocity.