From Newton’s law, we know that the time rate change of the momentum of a particle is equal to the net force acting on the particle and is in the direction of that force.
This clearly makes us understand that linear momentum can be changed only by a net external force. If there is no net external force, p cannot change.
This implies that there is no change in the momentum, or the momentum is conserved, i.e.,
In order to apply the conservation of momentum, you have to choose the system in such a way that the net external force is zero.
In the example given below, the two cars of masses m1 and m2 are moving with velocities v1 and v2 before the collision. And their velocities change to
A bullet of mass m leaves a gun of mass M kept on a smooth horizontal surface. If the speed of the bullet relative to the gun is v, the recoil speed of the gun will be_______________________.
No external force acts on the system (gun + bullet) during their impact (till the bullet leaves the gun). Therefore, the momentum of the system remains constant. Before the impact (gun + bullet) was at rest. Hence, its initial momentum is zero. Therefore, just after the impact, the momentum of the system (gun + bullet will be zero).
Types of Collision
The common normal at the point of contact between the bodies is known as the line of impact. If the mass centres of both the colliding bodies are located on the line of impact, the impact is called central impact, and if the mass centres of both or any one of the colliding bodies are not on the line of impact, the impact is called eccentric impact.
If velocities vectors of the colliding bodies are directed along the line of impact, the impact is called a direct or head-on impact.
If velocity vectors of both or of any one of the bodies are not along the line of impact, the impact is called an oblique impact.
Consider a ball of mass m1 moving with velocity v1 collides with another ball of mass m2 approaching with velocity v2. After a collision, they both move away from each other, making an angle with the line of impact.
Coefficient of restitution
When two objects collide head-on, their velocity of separation after impact is in a constant ratio to their velocity of approach before impact.
The constant e is called the coefficient of restitution.
An elastic collision between two objects is one in which total kinetic energy (as well as total momentum) is the same before and after the collision.
On a billiard board, a ball with velocity v collides with another ball at rest. Their velocities are exchanged, as it is an elastic collision.
An inelastic collision is one in which total kinetic energy is not the same before and after the collision (even though momentum is constant).
When the colliding objects stick together after the collision, as happens when a meteorite collides with the Earth, the collision is called perfectly inelastic.
In other inelastic collisions, the velocities of the objects are reduced, and they move away from each other.
Velocities of Colliding Bodies after Collision in 1- dimension
Let there be two bodies with masses, m1 and m2, moving with velocities u1 and u2. They collide in an instant and acquire velocities v1 and v2 after the collision. Let the coefficient of restitution of the colliding bodies be e. Then, applying Newton’s experimental law and the law of conservation of momentum, we can find the value of velocities v1 and v2.
Conserving momentum of the colliding bodies before and the after the collision.
Applying Newton’s experimental law,
Putting (ii) in (i), we obtain
When the collision is elastic, e = 1
Having derived the velocities of colliding objects in a 1-dimensional collision (elastic and inelastic), let us try to set conditions and draw useful conclusions.
1. If m1 = m2
v1 = u2 and v2 = u1
When the two bodies of equal mass collide head-on elastically, their velocities are mutually exchanged.
2. If m1 = m2 and u2 = 0, then
v1 = 0, v2 = u1
3. If the target particle is massive.
(a) m2 >> m1 and u2 = 0
v1 = -u1 and v2= 0
The light particle recoils at the same speed while the heavy target remains practically at rest.
(b) m2 >> m1 and u2 ≠ O
v1 ≈ – u1+ 2u2 and v2 ≈ u2
4. If the particle is massive: m1 >> m2
v1 = u1 and v2= 2u1— u2
If the target is initially at rest, u2 = O
v1 = u1 and v2 = 2 u1
The motion of the heavy particle is unaffected, while the light target moves apart at a speed twice that of the particle.
5. When the collision is perfectly inelastic, e = O
Elastic Collision in Two Dimension
A particle of mass m1 moving with velocity v1 along the x-direction makes an elastic collision with another stationary particle of mass m2. After the collision, the particles move in different directions with different velocities.
Applying the law of conservation of momentum,
Conservation of kinetic energy,
Given the values of
Variable Mass System
Newton’s Second Law for the Rocket
Let m be the instantaneous mass and mo be the initial mass of the rocket.
⇒ m = mo – λt
Assuming g to be uniform,
Ignoring the effect of gravity, the instantaneous velocity and acceleration of the rocket (attributed only to the thrust by the ejected mass) are
m = mo – λt ……………..(3)
At any instant of time momentum of the mass (λdt) relative to the ground before ejection,
Rate of change of momentum of the ejected mass
Force exerted on the ejected mass
Force exerted on the system (rocket), i.e.,
After a perfectly inelastic collision between two identical particles moving at the same speed in different directions, the speed of the particles becomes (2/3)rd of the initial speed. The angle between the two particles before the collision is
Let θ be the desired angle. The linear momentum of the system will remain conserved. Hence,
Hence, (C) is the correct choice.
Conservation of Linear Momentum Video Lesson
Frequently Asked Questions on Conservation of Momentum
State the law of conservation of momentum.
The law of conservation of momentum states that the momentum of an isolated system before the collision is equal to the momentum of an isolated system after the collision.
On what principle does a rocket work?
The law of conservation of linear momentum.
An astronaut in open space is away from his spaceship. How can he return to his ship?
He must throw some object away from his ship. The astronaut moves backwards to conserve the linear momentum (i.e., recoil). This allows him to return to his ship.
Why does a gun recoil back when it is being fired?
The gun recoils back when it is being fired to conserve linear momentum.