 Vernier Software & Technology

# Air Resistance

## Introduction

When you solve physics problems involving free fall, often you are told to ignore air resistance and to assume the acceleration is constant. In the real world, because of air resistance, objects do not fall indefinitely with constant acceleration. One way to see this is by comparing the fall of a baseball and a sheet of paper when dropped from a meter height. The baseball is still accelerating when it hits the floor. Air has a much greater effect on the motion of the paper than it does on the motion of the baseball. The paper does not accelerate very long before air resistance reduces the acceleration so that it moves at an almost constant velocity. When an object is falling with a constant velocity, we describe it with the term terminal velocity, or vT. The paper reaches terminal velocity very quickly, but on a short drop to the floor, the baseball does not.

Air resistance is sometimes referred to as a drag force. Experiments have been done with a variety of objects falling in air. These sometimes show that the drag force is proportional to the velocity and sometimes that the drag force is proportional to the square of the velocity. In either case, the direction of the drag force is opposite to the direction of motion. Mathematically, the drag force can be described using Fdrag = –bv or Fdrag = –cv2. The constants b and c are called the drag coefficients that depend on the size and shape of the object.

When falling, there are two forces acting on an object: the weight, mg, and air resistance, –bv or –cv2. At terminal velocity, the downward force is equal to the upward force, so mg = –bv or mg = –cv2, depending on whether the drag force follows the first or second relationship. In either case, since g and b or c are constants, the terminal velocity is affected by the mass of the object. Taking out the constants, this yields either

vTm or vT2m

If we plot mass versus vT or vT2, we can determine which relationship is more appropriate.

In this experiment, you will measure terminal velocity as a function of mass for falling coffee filters and use the data to choose between the two models for the drag force. Coffee filters were chosen because they are light enough to reach terminal velocity in a short distance.

## Objectives

• Observe the effect of air resistance on falling coffee filters.
• Determine how air resistance and mass affect the terminal velocity of a falling object.
• Choose between two competing force models for the air resistance on falling coffee filters.

## Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

## Physics with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

 1 Graph Matching 2A Back and Forth Motion 2B Back and Forth Motion 3A Cart on a Ramp 3B Cart on a Ramp 4A Determining g on an Incline 4B Determining g on an Incline 5 Picket Fence Free Fall 6 Ball Toss 7 Bungee Jump Accelerations 8A Projectile Motion (Photogates) 8B Projectile Motion (Projectile Launcher) 9 Newton's Second Law 10 Atwood's Machine 11 Newton's Third Law 12 Static and Kinetic Friction 13 Air Resistance 14 Pendulum Periods 15 Simple Harmonic Motion 16 Energy of a Tossed Ball 17 Energy in Simple Harmonic Motion 18A Momentum, Energy and Collisions 18B Momentum, Energy and Collisions 19A Impulse and Momentum 19B Impulse and Momentum 20 Centripetal Accelerations on a Turntable 21 Accelerations in the Real World 22 Ohm's Law 23 Series and Parallel Circuits 24 Capacitors 25 The Magnetic Field in a Coil 26 The Magnetic Field in a Slinky 27 Electrical Energy 28A Polarization of Light 28B Polarization of Light (Rotary Motion Sensor) 29 Light, Brightness and Distance 30 Newton's Law of Cooling 31 The Magnetic Field of a Permanent Magnet 32 Sound Waves and Beats 33 Speed of Sound 34 Tones, Vowels and Telephones 35 Mathematics of Music

### Experiment 13 from Physics with Vernier Lab Book #### Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.