Centripetal force

Centripetal force is the force, or component of force, that acts on a moving object on a curvilinear path, and that is directed toward the center of curvature of the path. The term centripetal comes from the Latin words centrum, centro, and petere, be directed towards, and can be obtained from Newton’s laws . The centripetal force always acts perpendicular to the direction of movement of the body on which it is applied. In the case of an object moving in a circular path with velocity changing, the net force on the body can be decomposed into a perpendicular component that changes the direction of movement and a tangential one, parallel to speed, that modifies the modulus of speed.

Any movement on a curved road represents accelerated movement, and therefore requires a force directed toward the center of the road’s curvature. This force is called the centripetal force, which means force looking for the center.

In general, the centrifugal force and the centripetal force have the same modulus but opposite direction. The centripetal force is an action force, directed towards the center of rotation, while the centripetal force is the reaction force in the opposite direction. For a particle of mass m, which pulls a chord of length r and rotates in a circle , an angular velocity W is calculated from the center z by the following expression: where

FMw cp: centripetal force.

M : mass of the particle.

w  : angular velocity.

r : chord length (radius of circle)


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  • 1 Applications
  • 2 Confusion about the term
  • 3 See also
  • 4 Source


In the technique, the effect of centrifugal and centripetal force is applied in the operating principle of centrifuges. These equipments are used among others for drying clothes, in vegetable pulp factories , in pharmaceutical laboratories, etc.

Confusion about the term

Clothes centrifuge

The fictitious or false character of the centrifugal force can give rise to some confusion in its interpretation, especially when it is confused with the reaction of the centripetal force, by virtue of Newton’s third law or Principle of action-reaction, forgetting that this reaction does not act on the body but is exerted by the body. Currently, the centrifugal force tends to be played down when teaching circular motion ; instead the importance of centripetal force is enhanced, since it is the real force and responsible for maintaining circular motion and providing centripetal acceleration. However, when it is inevitable to describe movement in a frame of referenceIn rotation, such as when describing the motion of a long-range projectile relative to the Earth’s surface, it will be inevitable to refer to the centrifugal force and other dummy forces, such as the Coriolis force .

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