MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Why.. and How.. does a rubber ball bounce.. as opposed to a cement ball?

Area: Physics
Posted By: Martyn Overy, Secondary School Teacher Ph.d (Physics)
Date: Tue Feb 25 16:08:23 1997
Message ID: 853745270.Ph

Hello Ute,

When you lift a ball to a certain height above the ground work is done
against the weight of the ball.The amount of work needed to lift a ball 
to a certain height is stored as gravitational potential energy.

When the ball falls from this height the force of gravity (weight)
on the ball will accelerate the ball.This means its velocity 
will gets faster (Newton's Second Law).
Since the kinetic energy is the energy of motion,
the kinetic energy will also increase.
Just at the point of impact all the potential energy 
has been converted into kinetic energy.

When it strikes the ground the ball has an upward force acting on it
by the ground.It also give the same force to the ground,in the opposite
direction (Newton's Third Law).The upward force on the ball makes the
bottom of the ball compress ,and  energy is stored in the ball as elastic
potential energy.It only takes a short time for the ball to come to rest
(velocity = 0). Then the elastic energy of the ball is released
and the ball gives a force on the ground. There is an equal and
opposite force on the ball,in the upward direction (Third Law again).
The elastic energy is  now released as kinetic energy.
The kinetic energy is then converted into gravitational energy
as the ball moves upwards.

If the ball is perfectly elastic then no other energy changes will happen.
In practice,some of the elastic energy will be converted into heat, by 
internal friction, as the molecules move against each other in the ball.
A small amount of kinetic energy will also be converted into sound.
These other energy changes are the reasons why the ball does not return
 to the same height.

A cement ball is unable to store much of the kinetic energy as elastic
potential energy ,so the original energy is converted into heat and also
the work needed in deforming the ball,and sound energy.

For simplicity I have assumed that (i) the effect of air friction can 
be neglected and (ii) the surface of contact is not deformed/compressed.

In practice both of these effects will result in extra energy 
changes ,reducing  the  the kinetic energy of  the ball.

I hope this has answered your question(s) !

Current Queue | Current Queue for Physics | Physics archives

Return to the MadSci Network

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network
© 1997, Washington University Medical School