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How the mass and speed of a moving object and how this affects its stopping distance due to the changes in energy needed to brake

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Luxman Sriranjan 10R                                                    Physics Coursework Investigation


The investigation is about the mass and speed of a moving object and how this affects its stopping distance due to the changes in energy needed to brake.

Since I cannot measure the speed and energy accurately I shall change the definition of my investigation.

The problem/task I will be investigating is how the mass of a moving object – a trolley, affects its stopping distance.

image11.png                Stopping Distance m

In order for a moving vehicle to stop a Braking Force is needed. The friction between the wheel and the ground usually does this. But in this experiment the trolley has no brakes therefore a weight is attached to the trolley to stop it when the string attached to the weight tightens and provides an opposing force to the movement of the trolley.

Force is the factor that pushes or pulls an object. Forces can change the speed and direction of an object as well as changing its shape. The size of a force is measured in Newtons (N).

Work is done when an applied force moves or acts upon an object, against and opposing a force. Work is equal to the energy transferred and is measured in Joules – J. The equation for Work is Force x Distance.

KE is the type of energy all moving objects transfer is measured in J.

The faster the object is moving the more force is needed to stop it.

...read more.



Therefore the mass of the trolley will not affect the GPE whereas the height of the ramp will. I will therefore keep the height the same.

  • I should keep the trolley the same as its mass may vary. Therefore the mass of the trolley will be consistent throughout the experiment. The mass is going to be the variable in this experiment and will be altered by adding pre-weighed slabs.
  • The board must be kept perfectly flat in order that no energy is wasted on a bump. The same boards must be used since the friction between the trolley and the boards may vary. If the friction changes, the results will be invalid because the greater the force of friction, the shorter the stopping distance will be.
  • The slanted board must be kept on the same angle. If there was a greater angle/height, there would be a greater GPE and so an unfair and invalid result would be obtained.
  • The braking force must be the same. The amount of force that will be used was calculated in the preliminary experiment.



The apparatus will be setup as shown above.

The mass on the trolley will be varied from 0 – 5 (the mass of each slab will be measured on a balance).

The braking force will be kept constant at 6N.

The trolley will be released from the top of the first board.

The distances will be recorded between where the thread tightens and where the trolley stops.

...read more.


Also only the theoretical line passes through the origin, not the real line. According to my graph (ASD line) that at a mass of 0g the stopping distance is 8cm, which is clearly impossible.

My graph, ASD line, look very similar to the simple predicted graph, except for it not passing through the origin.  But the theoretical line is almost identical.

I think my results support the conclusion I have made very well.


However I could try it with:

More slabs upon the trolley,

Different heights to change the amount GPE transferred to KE for movement,

Different surfaces to see how friction changes stopping distance,

And more accurate apparatus to check that the patterns shown in this experiment are correct and generally to make the experiment more accurate.

Further work could be done to this experiment like using light gates to measure the velocity of the trolley as it passes down the ramp. The light gate would be placed and different points and it could measure the time taken to pass them. Then the stopping distance measured and the time taken could be used to get the velocity = distance/time. Using this I could find the acceleration using the formula:

Acceleration =    change of velocity

                   time taken for change.

E.g.         Acceleration =    (50-20) m/s =    6m/s2


Using this I could use the formula, Force = Mass x Acceleration, and find the force.

...read more.

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