Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Momentum, Energy and Collisions

Figure from experiment 18B from Physics with Vernier


The collision of two carts on a track can be described in terms of momentum conservation and, in some cases, energy conservation. If there is no net external force experienced by the system of two carts, then we expect the total momentum of the system to be conserved. This is true regardless of the force acting between the carts. In contrast, energy is only conserved when certain types of forces are exerted between the carts.

Collisions are classified as elastic (kinetic energy is conserved), inelastic (kinetic energy is lost) or completely inelastic (the objects stick together after collision). Sometimes collisions are described as super-elastic, if kinetic energy is gained. In this experiment, you can observe elastic and inelastic collisions and test for the conservation of momentum and energy.


  • Observe collisions between two carts, testing for the conservation of momentum.
  • Measure energy changes during different types of collisions.
  • Classify collisions as elastic, inelastic, or completely inelastic.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

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

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Physics with Vernier »

Experiment 18B from Physics with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Physics with Vernier</i> book cover

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.

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