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Conservation of Momentum

Conservation of Momentum M.K.Rolley
Conservation of Momentum M.K.Rolley
Conservation of Momentum M.K.Rolley


Momentum: What is it?

Is the product of the MASS and VELOCITY of an object or p=mv

has units of kgm/s

Is a vector quantity so direction is important (ie can be negative)

In any collision or interaction Momentum is always conserved

The law of Conservation of momentum….

‘In any interaction involving bodies exerting forces on one another, as in a collision,the total momentum after the interaction is the same as the total momentum before the collision providing no external force acts on the system’

ie momentum before = momentum after

Example. A bullet of mass 10g is fired from a 6kg rifle at a speed of 300m/s. What is the recoil velocity of the rifle?

Momentum before firing =


Momentum after firing=

Momentum of bullet + momentum of rifle

= 0 0.010 × 300

+ 6 ×(-v)=0

3-6v=0 v= 0.5m/s

Example 2. A smart car of mass 500kg

has a head on collision with a new mini of

mass 1000kg travelling at 20m/s



cars stop dead. How fast was the mini travelling?

Total momentum before collision = m 1 v 1 + m 2 v 2 = -1000x20 + 500v

Total momentum after collision=0

Since mv before = mv after

-20000 +500v=0 v= 40m/s

Why is it true?

In any collision the force between them is the same and acts for the same time (newton 3)

This force acts on different objects however and will accelerate each object differently according to the mass of each (newton 2 ) The final velocity reached by each object will decrease in the same proportion as the mass of the objects increases The product m x v for each object is therefore identical

Why is this useful?

It allows us to predict the outcome of collisions eg car rail and air accident simulations and construct vehicles to stand up to them better

It allows us to calculate the speed of objects which would otherwise be difficult eg the speed of a shell or rifle bullet

It might allow us to become excellent snooker players but…… ..

Inelastic and elastic collisions:

In every case momentum is conserved regardless

whether the collision is elastic or inelastic but in an inelastic collision Kinetic Energy is not conserved

If the objects stick together after a collision the collision is said to be inelastic

Most collisions are a complex mixture of both

Try these… ..

A trolley of mass 4kg moving at 10 m/s collides with a 2 kg trolley moving in the same direction at a velocity of 4m/s. they separate after the collision and the 4 kg trolley slows to 7m/s. What is the final speed of the other trolley? (hint draw diagrams of momentum before and after)

a trolleyA of mass 1kg is travelling at 2m/s towards another trolleyB of mass 4kg which is travelling towards it at a velocity of 3m/s. On collision they stick together. What is their final combined velocity and in which direction do they travel together? (care with negatives)


2m/s to the left