**Centripetal force** refers to the force that compels an object to traverse a curved trajectory. For instance, centripetal force is exemplified by the Earth’s gravitational pull directed towards its center, which governs the Moon’s orbital path. This force is directed inward, perpendicular to the object’s path of motion. In other words, it is oriented towards the center of the circular path the object is following. This centripetal force is crucial for counteracting the object’s inherent tendency to move in a straight line and allows it to maintain its trajectory along the curved path.

## Examples

### Stone

When a stone is rapidly spun around in a sling, it demonstrates the concept of centripetal force, a force directed toward the center of rotation. This force acts as a tether and prevents the stone from breaking free and flying off in a straight line. Instead, the stone continuously changes its direction, compelled to follow the curved path created by the centripetal force. This phenomenon occurs because an object in motion has a natural tendency to move in a straight line, but the centripetal force counters this tendency by constantly redirecting the stone towards the center. In essence, the stone’s circular motion is a delicate balance between the outward inertia seeking to move it straight and the inward centripetal force curving its path, resulting in a graceful and controlled whirl.

### Satellite

A satellite orbiting Earth illustrates the influence of centripetal force. This force counteracts the satellite’s natural forward motion and prevents it from moving in a straight line into space. Instead, the centripetal force continuously redirects the satellite’s trajectory toward Earth and maintains its circular orbit. The gravitational pull from Earth contributes to this equilibrium, as it provides the centripetal force needed to counterbalance the satellite’s tendency to move straight into space. This harmonious interplay between the satellite’s velocity and the centripetal force ensures a stable and predictable path as it circles our planet.

### Car

When a car navigates a curve on a road, it encounters centripetal force that maintains its path along the curved trajectory. This force acts towards the center of the curve and prevents the car from veering off in a straight line. As the car turns, the tires push against the road surface, generating centripetal force that counters the natural tendency of the car to continue moving straight. The friction between the tires and the road provides the necessary centripetal force, ensuring that the car remains on the intended circular path without skidding or sliding. This balance between the car’s inertia and the centripetal force allows for a controlled and secure maneuver around the curve.

### Planet

The centripetal force plays a vital role in keeping planets, such as Earth, in their orbits around the Sun. This force is provided by the gravitational attraction between the planet and the Sun. As the planet moves along its elliptical path, the Sun’s gravitational pull acts as a centripetal force that constantly pulls the planet towards the center of its orbit. This gravitational tug-of-war balances the planet’s natural forward motion and prevents it from flying off into space. The centripetal force maintains the delicate equilibrium between the planet’s inertia and the Sun’s gravitational force, ensuring that the planet remains in a stable and predictable elliptical orbit around the Sun.

### Globe of Death

Inside the captivating Globe of Death, a skilled biker performs daring feats by riding in circular loops. The centripetal force is the unseen hero here, acting as the invisible hand that keeps the biker firmly inside the globe. As the biker accelerates and maintains speed, the centripetal force constantly pulls towards the center of the circular path. This force counteracts gravity‘s pull and allows the biker to stay glued to the inner surface of the globe, defying the natural urge to fall downwards. The combination of the biker’s momentum and the centripetal force creates a thrilling spectacle; it showcases the delicate balance between velocity and the centripetal force that enables the biker’s gravity-defying performance.

### Roller coaster

As a roller coaster hurtles along its twists and turns, riders experience a unique sensation of being pushed to the side. This sensation is a direct result of centripetal force at play. The coaster’s rapid changes in direction require a force that redirects the passengers’ motion inward, toward the center of each curve. This inward force is the centripetal force, and it ensures that the riders stay securely on the track despite the coaster’s dramatic maneuvers. Without the centripetal force, riders would continue moving in a straight line, causing them to fly off the track due to inertia. The interplay between the coaster’s speed, the track’s shape, and the centripetal force creates an exhilarating and gravity-defying experience that leaves riders thrilled and amazed.

### Roulette

In a game of roulette, the spinning wheel adds an element of excitement as the small ball travels along a curving path. This captivating motion is the result of centripetal force, a pulling force directed towards the center of the spinning wheel. This force prevents the ball from moving in a straight line and ensures that it stays connected to the wheel’s circular motion. As the wheel slows down, the centripetal force decreases, allowing the ball to settle into one of the numbered pockets. The interplay between the ball’s inertia, the wheel’s rotation, and the centripetal force creates the dynamic and suspenseful game that casino-goers enjoy.

### Carousel

In the case of a carousel, its circular motion is maintained by centripetal force, which pulls riders toward the center of rotation. As the carousel spins, this inward force is provided by the structure of the ride, such as the poles or the friction between the riders and their seats. The centripetal force ensures that riders follow a circular path, keeping them securely in place as they move around the carousel. This force is essential for maintaining the motion of the ride, creating the smooth and enjoyable experience that carousel-goers love. The sensation of being pulled inward is a direct result of the centripetal force at work, making the carousel a classic and exciting amusement park attraction.

### Train

When a train navigates a curved turn, centripetal force plays a crucial role in keeping the train on its curved path. This force acts inward, towards the center of the curve, ensuring that the train follows the desired trajectory instead of continuing in a straight line. The centripetal force is provided by the rails and the friction between the train’s wheels and the tracks, guiding the train smoothly through the curve. For passengers inside the train, this force helps maintain stability and comfort by keeping them in their seats as the train turns. It is the centripetal force that prevents passengers from sliding outward and ensures a safe and steady ride, making the journey through curves seamless and enjoyable.

### Jet aircraft

As a jet aircraft completes a loop, centripetal force is crucial in keeping the aircraft on its curved path. During the loop, the aircraft and its pilot undergo a rapid change in direction, with centripetal force pulling them toward the center of the loop’s curvature. This inward force keeps the aircraft in its circular trajectory and ensures that the pilot remains securely in their seat, despite the pull of gravity. The aircraft’s aerodynamic design, combined with the centripetal force, allows the pilot to maintain control throughout the maneuver, ensuring a smooth and controlled loop. The pilot’s experience of being pressed into the seat is due to the interplay of gravity and the forces involved in the loop, with centripetal force playing a key role in the maneuver’s success.

### Water bucket

When a water bucket is spun in a circular motion, such as when it is swung around in a vertical circle, centripetal force is crucial in keeping the water inside the bucket. At the top of the circle, gravity pulls the water downward, and inertia makes the water want to continue moving in a straight line, tangential to the circular path. However, the centripetal force, which acts inward toward the center of the circle, ensures that the water remains in its circular path and stays inside the bucket, even when upside down. This inward force, provided by the tension in your arm as you swing the bucket, counteracts the effects of gravity and inertia, demonstrating how centripetal force maintains the water’s position during circular motion.

## Equation

The **centripetal force equation**, represented as F_{c} = (m × v^{2}) ÷ r, determines the force necessary to maintain an object’s motion in a circular trajectory. It is denoted by F_{c} and represents the inward force required to keep the object on its circular path, preventing it from moving in a straight line tangent to the circle. The variables m, v, and r correspond to the mass of the object, its velocity, and the radius of the circular path, respectively.

### Practice problems

#### Problem #1

A race car weighing 800 kg moves on a circular track with a speed of 180 km/h. Determine the centripetal force required to keep the race car in its circular path. The radius of the circular track is 50 m.

**Solution**

Given data:

- Mass of the race car, m = 800 kg
- Velocity of the race car, v = 180 km/h = 50 m/s
- Centripetal force acting on the race car, F
_{c}= ? - Radius of the circular path, r = 50 m

Using the equation:

- F
_{c}= (m × v^{2}) ÷ r - F
_{c}= [800 × (50)^{2}] ÷ 50 - F
_{c}= (2 × 10^{6}) ÷ 50 - F
_{c}= 40,000 N

Therefore, the centripetal force acting on the race car is **40,000 N**.

#### Problem #2

A satellite with a mass of 500 kg orbits in a circular path with a speed of 6000 m/s. What is the centripetal force acting on the satellite? The radius of the circular orbit is 2000 km.

**Solution**

Given data:

- Mass of the satellite, m = 500 kg
- Velocity of the satellite, v = 6000 m/s
- Centripetal force acting on the satellite, F
_{c}= ? - Radius of the circular orbit, r = 10 m

Using the equation:

- F
_{c}= (m × v^{2}) ÷ r - F
_{c}= [500 × (6000)^{2}] ÷ 2000 - F
_{c}= (18 × 10^{9}) ÷ 2000 - F
_{c}= 9 × 10^{6}N

Therefore, the centripetal force acting on the satellite is **9 × 10 ^{6} N**.

#### Problem #3

A roller coaster train weighing 600 kg moves through a circular loop with a radius of 30 m. At a speed of 20 m/s, what is the centripetal force acting on the roller coaster car to maintain its circular motion?

**Solution**

Given data:

- Mass of the roller coaster train, m = 600 kg
- Radius of the circular loop, r = 30 m
- Velocity of the roller coaster train, v = 20 m/s
- Centripetal force acting on the roller coaster train, F
_{c}= ?

Using the equation:

- F
_{c}= (m × v^{2}) ÷ r - F
_{c}= [600 × (20)^{2}] ÷ 20 - F
_{c}= (240 × 10^{3}) ÷ 20 - F
_{c}= 12,000 N

Therefore, the centripetal force acting on the roller coaster train is **12,000 N**.

#### Problem #4

A ball of mass 0.2 kg swings in a circular path with a radius of 0.5 m. It has a speed of 4 m/s. Calculate the centripetal force acting on the ball, considering it is attached to a string.

**Solution**

Given data:

- Mass of the ball, m = 0.2 kg
- Radius of the circular path, r = 0.5 m
- Velocity of the ball, v = 4 m/s
- Centripetal force acting on the ball, F
_{c}= ?

Using the equation:

- F
_{c}= (m × v^{2}) ÷ r - F
_{c}= [0.2 × (4)^{2}] ÷ 0.5 - F
_{c}= 3.2 ÷ 0.5 - F
_{c}= 6.4 N

Therefore, the centripetal force acting on the ball is **6.4 N**.

## Related

- Balanced force
- Unbalanced force
- Friction
- Tension (physics)
- Applied force
- Normal force
- Drag (physics)
- Gravity
**Centripetal force**- Centrifugal force
- Buoyancy
- Net force
- Compression (physics)

## More topics

## External links

- Centripetal force – Wikipedia
- Centripetal Force – HyperPhysics Concepts
- What is a centripetal force? (article) – Khan Academy
- The Centripetal Force Requirement – The Physics Classroom
- What Are Centrifugal & Centripetal Forces? – Live Science
- 6.3 Centripetal Force – BCcampus Pressbooks
- Centripetal Force: Definition, Formula & Examples – Study.com
- Centripetal Force – ScienceDirect
- 6.3 Centripetal Force – IU Pressbooks
- What Is Centripetal Force? Definition and Equations – ThoughtCo
- Centripetal Force, Centrifugal Force – what’s the deal? – Wired
- Centrifugal Force vs Centripetal Force – Diffen
- 6.3 Centripetal Force – OpenStax
- Centripetal and Centrifugal Acceleration Force – The Engineering ToolBox
- 6.3 Centripetal Force | University Physics Volume 1 – Lumen Learning
- 6.3 Centripetal Force – University Physics Volume 1 – UCF Pressbooks
- Centripetal Force – CK-12
- Lesson Explainer: Centripetal Force – Nagwa Limited
- AP Physics 1 : Centripetal Force and Acceleration – Varsity Tutors
- Centripetal Force – The Physics Hypertextbook
- Centripetal force Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster
- Centripetal Force: Definition, Formula & Unit – Vaia
- Centripetal Force on a Spinning Cup – Virginia Tech Physics
- Centripetal Force: Definition, Examples, & Equation – Science Facts
- Uniform Circular Motion – Imagine the Universe! – NASA (.gov)
- Centripetal Force- Introduction, Explanation & Application – Turito
- Centripetal Force | COSMOS – Swinburne University of Technology
- Centripetal force | physics – Britannica
- Centripetal Force Calculator – Omni Calculator
- What is centripetal force? What is its function? – Quora
- Centripetal Force – Rochester Institute of Technology
- Basics of centripetal force – Physics Stack Exchange

Deep

Forceinphysics.com was founded by Deep Rana, who is a mechanical engineer by profession and a blogger by passion. He has a good conceptual knowledge on different educational topics and he provides the same on this website. He loves to learn something new everyday and believes that the best utilization of free time is developing a new skill.