Why is the centripetal force necessary for circular motion?

  • Google+ icon
  • LinkedIn icon
  • 661 views

The centripetal force can be thought of as the force that causes circular motion.

When an object moves in a circle a force must always act on it, even when it moves at a constant speed. This is because velocity is a vector (and therefore has both a magnitude and a direction) and the direction the object is moving in is constantly changing.

This constant direction change is an acceleration, and we know from Newton's Second Law that any acceleration must have an force associated with it.

Similarly, the centripetal force must point towards the centre of the circle, and therefore perpendicular to the tangential velocity, to maintain the motion in the circle. If it did not exist the object would 'shoot off' in a direction tangential to the circle.

James B. GCSE Further Mathematics  tutor, A Level Maths tutor, A Leve...

About the author

is an online A Level Physics tutor with MyTutor studying at St. Andrews University

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist.

95% of our customers rate us

Browse tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss

mtw:mercury1:status:ok