What is Centripetal Force?

Centripetal force is defined as,
The component of force acting on an object in curvilinear motion which is directed toward the axis of rotation or center of curvature.
The unit of centripetal force is Newton. The centripetal force is always directed perpendicular to the direction of the displacement of the object.
If an object accelerates according to the changes of velocity, then it can change either its speed or direction of motion. In simple terms, if any moving object in a circular path is constantly changing its direction means it is constantly accelerating. Using Newton’s second law of motion, if an object is travelling in a circular path, it is found that the centripetal force of an object moving in a circular path always acts towards the centre of the circle.
How is the Centripetal Force Calculated?
The Centripetal Force Formula is given as the product of mass (in kg) and tangential velocity (in meters per second) squared, divided by the radius (in meters). Which implies that on doubling the tangential velocity, the centripetal force will be quadrupled. Mathematically it is written as:

  • F is the Centripetal force.
  • ac is the Centripetal acceleration.
  • m is the mass of the object.
  • v is the speed or velocity of the object.
  • r is the radius.
Centripetal Force Examples
The force that pulls or pushes an object toward the centre of a circle as it travels, causing angular or circular motion is called a Centripetal Force. Some examples of Centripetal Force is given below.

A few examples of Centripetal Force
  • Spinning a ball on a string or twirling a lasso: Here the centripetal force is provided by the force of tension on the rope pulls the object in toward the centre.
  • Turning a car: Here the centripetal force is provided by the frictional force between the ground and the wheels.
  • Going through a loop on a roller coaster: The force is provided by the Normal Force as the seat or wall pushes you toward the centre.
  • Planets orbiting around the Sun: Centripetal Force is provided by Gravity.

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