Table of Mechanics Demonstration

List of Mechanics Equipment & Supplies

Lecture Demonstrations

Static vs. Kinetic Friction, 1K20.30

Topic and Concept:

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A spring scale attached to a block is used to pull on the block until it begins to move. The force registering on the scale is largest just before the block begins to move demonstrating that static friction is greater than kinetic friction.



ID Number


ME, Bay B2, Shelf #1

Lead Block w/Attached String

ME, Bay B5, Shelf #2

Important Setup Notes:

Setup and Procedure:

  1. Place the lead block on the lecture table or the Floor. The tables are quite smooth and have a low surface friction so two lead blocks maybe needed.
  2. Attach the scale to the block using the attached hook and the string attached to the block.
  3. Slowly and steadily pull the scale away from the block, and note the force that is registering just before the block begins to move.
  4. Maintaining the same pulling force, note the new amount of force registering on the scale.
  5. Noting the difference between the two forces, one can roughly determine the ratio of the two different coefficients of friction for the block used.

Cautions, Warnings, or Safety Concerns:


Friction arises from topological imperfections of the two surfaces in contact; the rougher the surface, the harder it is to slide it across another surface. Fundamentally, it is thought to arise from Coulomb forces between the atoms in the material and their relative positions. It acts to oppose motion. The magnitude of static friction is Ffr ≤ μs*Fn = μs * m * g where μs is the coefficient of static friction, m is the mass of the block, and g is the acceleration due to gravity. The net force on the block along the table top is the tension (equal to the counterweight treating the pulley as frictionless and massless) minus the frictional force: Fnet = T - Ffr = 0 until the block begins to move. Thus, the force registering on the scale is exactly the magnitude of the force of static friction. If T > Ffr, the block will move. The net force on the moving block is the tension minus the force due to kinetic friction: T - Ffr = T - μk * Fn = μk * m * g, where μk is the coefficient of kinetic friction. It is always the case that μs > μk .








fw: Static_vs._Kinetic_Friction (last edited 2018-07-18 16:58:33 by srnarf)