Where is the centripetal force used in real life?

Publish Date: 🖩Centripetal Force Calculator

The centripetal force is the net force of the body that keeps the body moving on a curvilinear path. It is the force that prevents a car from crashing on the roadside on a roundabout.

This is one of the many examples that we see in our surroundings of centripetal force. To learn more examples in detail, stay tuned.

Before we start looking at the applications of this force, let’s first revise its definition, unit, and formula.

What is Centripetal force?

On Wikipedia, the definition of centripetal force is:

“A force that makes a body follow a curved path. Its direction is always orthogonal to the motion of the body and towards the fixed point of the instantaneous center of curvature of the path.” 

Technically, it is not a force itself. It is just the net force in situations where the body starts moving in a circle. This is the reason it can be contact or non-contact at different times.

It is such a setup in which the tension in string or the normal force acting on a body is greater than all of the other forces combined. 

Centripetal force formula

The derivation for the centripetal force equation is given ahead. 

Since we are dealing with circular motion, we will use the angular quantities i.e angular velocity e.t.c.

As you might know, vang = ⍵ r.

And the formula for angular acceleration in terms of linear velocity is aang = v2/r.

Angular or centripetal acceleration is denoted by the Greek letter alpha (????). If we put the value of centripetal (angular) velocity in this formula, we get:



As you know f = ma, using this formula we have;

Fc =mv2/r=m⍵2r =mac

All of these formulas can be used. But the most common is mv2/r. It is because it is in terms of linear velocity and it is rare that you get angular values that you can use.

Since it’s a force, its unit is the newton. You can use the centripetal force calculator to find values.

What is centrifugal force?

It is the counterforce of centripetal force. It pulls the body away from the curvature and keeps it along the tangent. Its value is -Fc.

Applications of centripetal force

Now, we will see 8 different scenarios or places where centripetal force is in action.

1. Cream separator:

It is a kitchen gadget that is used to separate cream from milk. It is available in both electric and manual settings. The motor or in manual case, the person sets the blades of the separator in a rotational motion.

Since the cream is heavy it stays at the center (mass plays an essential role in centripetal force). The milk is thinner in consistency, it moves outward towards the walls of the separator.

From there both are separated.

2. Banking of roads:

Banking is a technique used on roads to prevent skidding vehicles in rain or in snow. Since there is less friction in such cases, the tangential velocity dominates and pulls the body away from the curvilinear path.

The road is curved a little to provide the necessary centripetal force. It is also useful in normal weather to lessen the chances of accidents.

3. Riding in a Car:

When you are in a car and the car takes a turn with some speed, you will feel a tug in the direction away from the center of the turn.

This is because the balance between multiple forces acting on the car is disturbed. Eventually, the centripetal force wins over.

Drifting is a stunt the sportsmen perform with cars. It uses the phenomenon of centripetal force/.

4. Washing machine dryer:

When you put wet clothes in a washing machine dryer and turn it on, it starts to rotate. The walls of the dryer have holes in them. When it moves with great speed, the clothes hit the walls and the water moves out through the holes. 

5. Planets and satellites:

The planets like our earth move around the sun and other planets due to centripetal velocity. The gravitational pull of the sun helps the earth to move in its path.

Similarly, satellites move around the earth and other planets. 

6. Merry-go-Round and Swings:

As kids, we all have loved these swings. The kids inside the bars can clearly feel a pull outwards. And those standing outside of the bars are in constant fear of falling. Because the centrifugal force can exceed if it is rotated more quickly.

The tension in the ropes of a swing keeps it in a place. When the kid starts to swing, it starts moving in the circular path. And many times one of us has thought, can they complete the circle around the bar on a swing? 

It is because we can see the circular motion of the swing. Both of these swings are using the same concept.

7. Wall of death:

It is a circus performance that is common in Asia. It is a circular basin and the performers move on bikes or cars along the walls. The stunt seems magical to the viewers but it is highly scientific in nature.

Although it is a daring act, if the correct calculation is used, it can be breathtaking. The riders use a fixed speed and make use of centripetal force to keep moving in a circle.

8. Disc throwing:

It is a game you might have seen in the Olympics. The thrower moves the disc in a circle until the required velocity is gained and then leaves it. The disc keeps moving around the tangent as there is no force to keep it in a circle. 

All of the above examples are using centripetal and centrifugal forces. If the body is in angular motion, centripetal force is dominating but if the body moves in the outward direction, centrifugal force is the winner.