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Forces and Motion 3.3 Demonstrating the terminal velocity of a moving object experiencing friction resistance using the ticker tape experiment

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INDEX for physics notes on acceleration of falling objects, experiments, friction, drag effects, gravity, terminal velocity


3.3 Terminal velocity experiments - ticker tape experiment

(balancing forces - rolling down hill along a running board)

What do we mean by 'terminal velocity? Describe an experiment to illustrate terminal velocity?

Terminal velocity and a trolley - running board experiment

If you set up a running board and let an object like a trolley roll down it, the 'diluted' effect of gravity gets the object to roll down the incline. need simple diagram

The resistance is due to the friction of the wheels moving on the axles and the contact between the wheels and the running board.

At first it speeds up as the force of gravity exceeds the friction of the trolley movement.

The force of gravity is constant, but as the speed of the trolley increases, so does the effect of friction e.g. the wheels and axle, wheel contact with running board.

Eventually the resistive forces of friction balance the diluted gravity effect and the trolley continues moving at a constant speed.

This final maximum speed is called the terminal velocity.

You can actually demonstrate this with a ticker tape timer experiment (results illustrated above).

You attach a long piece of ticker tape to the trolley and the tape passes through a little 'ticker tape' machine that stamps a dot onto the tape every fraction of a second.

The distance between the dots gives you the relative speed - you can measure it to the nearest mm.

At the start the dots are close together at the lowest speeds, but as the trolley speeds up the distance between the dots increases.

Eventually the dots are evenly spaced at their maximum distance apart showing the terminal velocity of the trolley was reached (first at time T).

I presume you can do a similar experiment with a series of light gates to show the same effect, not as much fun though!

The above example illustrate the idea of terminal velocity, but next we consider objects falling down in a fluid due to the force of gravity (air or a liquid -  see part 3.4).

Physics notes index on acceleration of falling objects, experiments, friction, drag effects, gravity, terminal velocity


Keywords, phrases and learning objectives for the ticker tape experiment on terminal velocity

Be able to describe and explain an experiment to demonstrate terminal velocity of moving object using a ticker tape experiment with a trolley running down an inclined board - know the apparatus, method, and analysing the results from the ticker tape.


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