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Centre of Mass

Centre of mass of system of the discrete particles


The centre of mass of an object is a point that represents the entire body and moves in the same
way as a point mass having mass equal to that of the object, when subjected to the same external
forces that act on the object. That is, if the resultant force acting on an object (or system of
objects) of mass m is F-> , the acceleration of the centre of mass of the object (or system) is given
by acm = ( F/m).
If the system is composed of a system of particles having masses m1 , m2 , m3 and so on , at coordinates (x1, y1, z1) , (x2, y2, z2) and so on , then the co-ordinates of the centre of mass are given
by

where mi = M = total mass and the summations extend over all masses composing the object
Illustration 1: Find out the centre of mass of a system of three particles of 1 kg, 2 kg and 3 kg
respectively; kept at the vertices of an equilateral triangle of side 1 m.
Solution: Assume the origin of the co-ordinate system at the position of the 1kg mass

= 2/3

= 3/6
Exercise 1: A thin uniform lamina is in the form of a circular disc of radius R. From it a circular
hole is cut off having exactly half the radius of the lamina and touching the laminas
circumference. Find the centre of mass of the remaining part
Centre of mass of continuous distribution of particles

Centre of mass of a body having continuous distribution of particles (mass) is given by

Illustration 2: Find the centre of mass of a uniform semi-circular ring of radius R and mass M.
Solution: Consider the centre of the ring as origin. Consider a differential element of length dl of
the ring whose radius vector makes an angle with the x axis. Let be the mass per unit length.
Then mass of this element is dm = Rd

xcm = by symmetry,

ycm = 2R/
Exercise 2: Find the centre of mass of a uniform semi-circular plate of radius r and mass M.
Velocity & Acceleration of centre of mass

Position vector of the centre of mass of a system of particle is given by

Illustration 3: Two particles of mass 1 kg and 0.5 kg are moving in the same direction with
speeds of 2 m/sec and 6 m/sec respectively on a smooth horizontal surface. Find the speed of the
c.m. of the system
Solution: Velocity of c.m. of the system is given by

Since the particles m1 & m2 are moving in the same direction are parallel.

= 3.33 m / sec
Exercise 3 : In this illustration, if the second particle approaches the first with same speed, what
will be the speed of centre of mass of the system?
Acceleration of the c.m. of a system of particles.

Hence in absence of any external resultant force, centre of mass of a system of particles is either
at rest or in uniform motion on straight line.
Illustration 4 : Two particles of mass 2 kg & 4 kg are approaching towards each other with
accelerations 1 m/sec2 & 2 m/sec2 respectively on a smooth horizontal surface. Find the
acceleration of centre of mass of the system.
Solution: The acceleration of c.m. of the system is given by

Since a1 and a2 are anti-parallel,

acm = 1m/sec2
Since m2a2 > m1a1, the direction of acceleration of c.m. will be directed in the direction of a2.
Exercise 4: Find the acceleration of the centre of mass of two particles approaching towards
each other under their own gravitational field.
Conservation of linear momentum

System of particles
Since ,

where P1-> , P2-> , P3-> .and Pn->are the linear momenta of the particles

P1-> , P2-> , P3-> .and Pn-> = Constant

Conservation of motion of centre of mass :

In absence of a net external resultant force along a certain direction there will be no change in the
state of motion of the centre of mass. i.e. if it had been at rest it will remain at rest and if it had
been moving with uniform velocity, it will continue moving with the same velocity.
Illustration 5: A body explodes in mid-air. Does its momentum remain conserved?
Solution: During explosion, the net force acting on the system is the weight of the system, that is
mg, where m is the mass of the body. In this case we see the change in momentum in time t is
given as

Since t -> 0 => P -> 0


The momentum of the system first before and after the impact remains practically equal. Then
the external force, that is gravitational force changes the momentum of the c.m. of the system for
considerable time interval not during explosion.
Exercise 5: A body when thrown upwards, changes its velocity, therefore it changes its
momentum. Does this violate the conservation of momentum principle? Justify.
Characteristic of linear momentum

It depends on the frame of reference, e.g., the linear momentum of a body at rest in a moving
train, is zero relative to a person sitting in the train while it is not zero for a person standing on
the ground.
Two bodies of same mass and moving with same speed will have different momenta unless their
directions of motion are same.
Relation between kinetic energy and momentum.

(a) If p = constant

i.e. if different bodies have same momentum, KE will be maximum for the lightest one
(b) If K = constant

i.e. if different bodies have same KE, the heaviest body will have the maximum momentum
(c) If m = constant

i.e. if different bodies have same mass, the body having maximum KE will have maximum
momentum.
Exercise 6: A boy of mass 30 kg is standing on a flat boat so that he is 20 meters from the shore.
He walks 8 m on the boat towards the shore and then stops. The mass of the boat is 90 kg and
friction between the boat and the water surface is negligible. How far is the boy from the shore
now?