Centripetal and Centrifugal force


Centripetal Vs Centrifugal Force


Centripetal and centrifugal forces are the terms associated with physics. Though these two terms may seem same on the first encounter. However, the differences between centrifugal and centripetal forces are very outstanding. Both these terms are related to the circular motion of objects. While centrifugal is related to the outward motion of the object which is away from the center in a circular motion.On the other hand, centripetal force deals with the inward motion of the object in the circular motion. In other words,  the centripetal force is the force exerted towards the center of the circular motion which compels the body to move inwards towards the center while the centrifugal force acts gradually on the object in circular motion and compels it to leave the circular motion tangentially to the circular path.

Centrifugal forces counter the centripetal forces on many occasions. Both these are vector quantities (that is they are defined with both their value and direction).

Centripetal Vs Centrifugal

Definition Centripetal force is defined as that component of force acting on a body in curvilinear motion, which  is directed towards  the center of curvature or axis of rotation. Centrifugal force is defined as that component of force in which the object following a curved path tends to fly outwards, away from the center of the curve.
Type of forces It is a real/actual force which counteracts the centrifugal force in a circular motion. It is apparent ( not real ) in nature and is the result of the property of inertia.
Direction Towards the center of the circular motion Away from the center of the circular motion
The frame of Reference Acts on both inertial and non-inertial frame of reference. Does not act on inertial frame of reference
Coined by By  Issac  Newton  in 1684 By Christiaan Huygens in 1659
Formula Mv2 /R Mv2 /R
Example Satellite orbiting around the earth is acted upon by the centripetal pull of the earth. Plumb Bob tried to the end of the rope and being rotated which is finally let off (it starts to move along the tangential direction under the influence of centrifugal force )


Definition of centripetal force

centripetal force is that part of the force which makes the body go round in circular motion. Its direction is always orthogonal to the motion of the body and is directed to the center of the circular path followed by the object. It is the real force acting on any object by the virtue of which it is pulled towards the center of the body. The centripetal force acts in a body when it is in uniform circular motion. When an object is in uniform circular motion, it is constantly changing direction, and therefore accelerating. This is called angular acceleration.A force acting on the object in uniform circular motion (called centripetal force) is acting on the object from the center of the circle.

Definition of centrifugal force

A centrifugal force is that part of the force which acts tangentially at the body in circular motion which tends to move the object away from the circular motion. It is an inertial force (not true in nature). And in the case when measurements are done in the inertial frame of reference, centrifugal force does not act. All measurements of position and velocity thus must be made relative to some frame of reference. For example, if we are studying the motion of an object in a train traveling at speed, we could calculate the motion of the object with respect to the interior of the train, or with respect to the surface of the Earth. An inertial frame of reference is one that is not accelerating (including rotation).




APPLICATIONS AND USES: Examples of Centripetal vs Centrifugal force

We encounter the circular motion in one form or the other every day in our life.

  1. Right from the roads on which we drive to the circular motion of the planets, circular motion is present everywhere.
  2. These concepts have been greatly utilized in the banking of roads in order to prevent skidding of the vehicles in the curved paths.
  3. The sun and the planets orbit each other under the influence of centripetal forces .Centripetal force keeps the roller coaster in motion and keeps the car from flying off the loop.
  4. When we enjoy swinging in circular swings (like a roller coaster), centrifugal acts on us which pull us away from the swings.



Author’s Perspective (Summary)

To understand the terms Centripetal forces and Centrifugal force, and the difference between them let’s consider a simple example. Consider the case of bob being tied to a thread and rotated in a circular way. Then the force under which it is undergoing rotation is the centripetal force- which keeps it moving along the circular path. And suppose the next moment, the bob gets released and this bob flies away, then this force which tends to make it fly away is the centrifugal force.  And in the picture below when a car is in the circular motion one can clearly see that it is acted by to forces one centripetal acting towards the centre which keeps it in the circular motion and on the other hand there is a centrifugal force acting on the car that’s making it move away from the centre.

Centripetal vs Ceantrifugal





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