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Physics Assignment Help | Variable Mass |www.expertsmind.

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V Va ar ri ia ab bl le e M Ma as ss s
In our discussion of the conservation of linear momentum, we have so far deal with object whose
mass keeps constant. We now take those systems whose mass is not fixed, i.e., those in which
mass leaves or enters the object. A typical case is that of the rocket from which hot gases remain
on escaping, thereby continuously decreasing its mass.
In such problems you have nothing to do but give a thrust force
,
t F

to the main mass in addition


to the all other forces performing on it. This thrust force is shown as,
t rel
dm
F v
dt

|
=
|
' .
Here, rel v

is the velocity of the mass ejected or mass gained


relative to the main mass. In case of rocket this is sometimes
known the exhaust velocity of the gases.
dm
dt
is the rate at which
mass is increasing or decreasing.
m - dm
dm
r v

v dv +

system
The expression for the thrust force can be provided from the conservation of linear momentum in
the absence of any external forces on a object as follows:
Consider at some moment t = t mass of a object is m and its velocity is v

. After some time at t = t + dt its


mass goes (m= dm) and velocity becomes v dv

+ . The mass dm is ejected with relative spped r v

,
Absolute velocity of mass dm is therefore
,
r v v dv

+ + . If no external forces are operating on the
system, the linear momentum of the system will keep conserved,
Or i f P P

= Or ,
, ,
r mv m dm v dv dm v v dv

= + + + +
Or ,
,
mv mv mdv dmv dm dv

= + ,
,
r dm v v dm dm dv

+ + +
r mdv v dm

=
Or r
dv dm
m v
dt dt

|
|
=
| |
' .
' .
Here,
,
1
dv
m thrust force F
dt

|
=
|
' .
And
dm
dt
= rate at which mass is ejecting
Problems related to variable mass may be answered in following three steps:
1. Create a list of all the forces performing on the main mass and apply them on it.
2. Apply an additional thrust force t F

on the mass, the value of which is r


dm
v
dt

|
' .
and
direction is given by the direction of r v

in case the mass is increasing and otherwise the


direction of r v

if it is decreasing.
3. Find net force on the mass and apply
net
dv
F m
dt

= (m = mass at that particular instant)


Rocket Propulsion: Let m
0
be the mass of the rocket at time t = 0. m its mass at any time t and v its
speed a that the velocity of the rocket is u.
v = u
m = m
0
At t = 0
m = m
v = v
At t = t
Exhaust velocity = v
r
Further, let
dm
dt
|
|
' .
be the mass of the gas removed per unit time and v
r
the exhaust velocity of the
gases. Generally
dm
dt
|
|
' .
and v
r
are kept constant throughout the journey of the rocket. Now, let us take
few equations which can be needed in the problems of rocket propulsion. At time t = t,
1. Thrust force on the rocket
t r
dm
F v
dt
|
=
|
' .
(upwards)
2. Weight of the rocket
W = mg (downwards)
3. New force on the rocket
F
net
= F
t
W (upwards)
Or
net r
dm
F v mg
dt
|
=
|
' .
4. Net acceleration of the rocket
F
a
m
=
Or
r
v dv dm
g
dt m dt
|
=
|
' .
Or
r
dm
dv v gdt
m
|
=
|
' .
Or
0
v m t
r
u m 0
dm
dv v g dt
m

=
} } }
Or
0
r
m
v u v In gt
m
|
=
|
' .
Thus,
0
r
m
v u gt v In
m
|
= +
|
' .
(i)