Conservation of Momentum in Collisions


The goal of this experiment is to explore and study the conservation of momentum in collisions.

Conservation of momentum largely depends on the mass of the object. The greater the mass the higher the momentum is conserved In general, there are two main types of collisions; elastic and inelastic collision. Momentum is always conserved in all collisions. The main difference between the two types of collisions is the conservation of kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is only conserved in elastic or perfectly elastic collisions. However though we conclude as above, in both collisions there is loss of kinetic energy but the loss differs .in inelastic collision the loss of kinetic energy is high as compared with elastic collision.

            Outside the experiment, momentum can also be demonstrated by moving objects e.g. vehicles. Twill be seen that momentum differs with the size of the vehicle in question .The momentum possessed by a small passenger car is less than that possessed by a truck ,the difference is brought about by difference in masses of the two objects.

            When the aspect of force of inertia is considered under the moving vehicle, we find out that the vehicle will continue moving unless the breaks are applied to counter the force. When the two vehicles collide, kinetic energy is lost whereas momentum is conserved depending on the type of the collision. The aspect of centrifugal force outside the experiment can be demonstrated by observing the merry-go-round. Kids on a merry-go-round possess momentum as they move around but they are kept in position by centrifugal force.

In this section, we will be preforming three different investigations. In the first investigation, we will study the mechanics of an elastic collision, while in the second investigation we will be studying an inelastic collision. Finally, in the third investigation, we will study the motion of the center of mass of an object. In all experiments we have to come up with various questions that will guide us throughout the experiment ,the questions may include; what happens when two bodies moving in the opposite direction are subjected to collision?  What happens to momentum and kinetic energy is it conserved or lost? And if kinetic energy is lost, what is the difference in both elastic and inelastic experiments?

Investigation 1

Elastic Collision

Setup & Procedure

We first start by placing the carbonized paper on the air table and then placing the white paper on top of it. Next, we level the table and turn the air on. Measure and record the mass of the two pucks. With the two pucks in adjacent corners of the air table, we practice launching them so that they collide near the middle of the table and travel toward the other two corners. For the collision, turn on the spark timer and make sure that it is set to 30 ms or 30 Hz. Then, press the remote button immediately after launching the pucks and release it just before the pucks reach the opposite corners. On the white paper, identify the tracks of the motion of the pucks before and after the collision. Label the individual sparks along the four tracks, start with zero at the beginning. Label every fourth spark only. Use a ruler to draw the velocity vectors on the three tracks. Draw each velocity vector across the same number of sparks. Measure and record the magnitudes of the velocities by dividing the lengths of the corresponding tracks by the time taken between the points. Next, find vi1+vi2 and vf1+vf2 by graphically adding the velocities directly on the tracking paper. Use the plastic triangles to construct vector sums and estimate the errors. Find the magnitude and direction of the difference vector (vf1+vf2) – (vi1+vi2) graphically. Divide the magnitude of the difference vector by the magnitude of the initial vector sum vi1+vi2. Then, calculate the sum of the kinetic energies before the collision and the sum of the kinetic energies after the collision, don’t forget to calculate the error. Finally, calculate the percentage change in kinetic energy, %change = (K’-K) / K * 100…

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