What Is Circular Motion?

Circular Motion

Circular motion is defined as the movement of an object around the perimeter of a circle or the rotation of an item along a circular route in physics. It can be either uniform (with a fixed angular rate of rotation and speed) or non-uniform (with a fluctuating rate of rotation). The rotation of a three-dimensional body around a fixed axis requires circular motion of its pieces. In circular motion, overall space in between body as well as a fixed point on the exterior stays unchanged. Examples of circular motion include: an artificial satellite orbiting the Earth at a constant height, a ceiling fan’s blades rotating around a hub, a rope and is being swung in circles, an electron moving perpendicular to a uniform magnetic field, and a gear turning inside a mechanism. Since the object’s velocity vector is constantly changing direction, the moving object is undergoing acceleration by a centripetal force in the direction of the centre of rotation.


An item in non-uniform circular motion moves in a circular route at a varied speed. There is tangential acceleration in addition to regular acceleration since the speed is changing.  The net acceleration (a) in non-uniform circular motion is in the direction of Δv, which is oriented inside the circle but not through its centre (see figure). Tangential acceleration and normal acceleration, often known as centripetal or radial acceleration, are two components of net acceleration. Centripetal acceleration occurs in both uniform and non-uniform circular motion, opposite to tangential acceleration. Normal force does not necessarily point in the opposite direction of weight in non-uniform circular motion. Here’s an example of an item moving in a straight line before looping back into a straight route. The normal force in this figure is pointing in the opposite direction of the weight force. The radial and tangential forces are added together to form the normal force. The tangential force is caused by the component of weight force (We have neglected frictional force). As previously stated, the radial force (centripetal force) is caused by a change in velocity direction.

Normal force & weight could point in the same direction in non-uniform circular motion. Even though both forces point downward, the item will follow a circular route rather of falling straight down. Let’s start by looking at why normal force may point downward in the first place. If the item is a human seated in an aircraft, the two forces only point down until the plane reaches the top of the circle. This is because the normal force is equal to the total of the tangential and centripetal forces. When the motion is perpendicular to the direction of force applied, the tangential force is zero at the top (since no work is done). Force also will drop since weight force is perpendicular towards the object’s motion almost at the top of the circle, and centripetal force lies perpendicular towards the body’s motion almost at the top of the circle. From a logical sense, a passenger aboard a plane will be upside down at the apex of the circle. The person’s seat is literally pulling down on them at that time, which is typical force.

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Uniform Circular Motion

The motion of an item in a circle at a consistent speed is known as uniform circular motion. When an item travels in a circle, its direction is continually changing. The item is always travelling on a tangent to the circle. The velocity vector is also tangent to the circle since the direction of the object’s motion is the same as the direction of the velocity vector. A vector arrow is used to show this in the animation to the right. An accelerating item is one that moves in a circle. Objects that accelerate change its velocity, either in terms of speed (the magnitude of the velocity vector) or direction. A constant speed is achieved when an item moves in a uniform circular motion. The acceleration is in the inward direction. A vector arrow is used to show this in the animation to the right. The net force is the ultimate motion characteristic of an item moving in a uniform circular motion. The net force acting on an item of this type is directed towards the circle’s centre. An inward or centripetal force is the name given to the net force. An item would continue in a straight line if there was no internal pull, never deviating from its path. This object, meanwhile, is forever evolving direction & moving inward since an inward net force lies perpendicular towards the velocity vector.

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