What are the differences between elastic and inelastic collisions?

A collision occurs when two objects come in direct contact with each other. It is the situation in which two or more bodies exert forces on each other in about a relatively short time. There are two types of collisions namely :

  • Elastic Collision
    An elastic collision can be defined as a state where there is no net loss in kinetic energy in the system as the result of the collision.
  • Inelastic Collision
    An inelastic collision can be defined as a type of collision where this is a loss of kinetic energy. The lost kinetic energy is transformed into thermal energy, sound energy, and material deformation.

Differences between elastic and inelastic collisions

The differences between elastic and inelastic collisions is tabulated below

Elastic Collision

Inelastic Collision

The total kinetic energy is conserved. The total kinetic energy of the bodies at the beginning and the end of the collision is different.
Momentum does not change. Momentum changes.
No conversion of energy takes place. Kinetic energy is changed into other energy such as sound or heat energy.
Highly unlikely in the real world as there is almost always a change in energy. This is the normal form of collision in the real world.
An example of this can be swinging balls or a spacecraft flying near a planet but not getting affected by its gravity in the end. An example of an inelastic collision can be the collision of two cars.

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