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Coefficient of Friction

De La Salle University
Physics Department
Khalil, Ahmed I.

Friction is a force that can result from the simple
contact between two objects; it resists the motion of the object
either by slowing it down or by hindering its motion. It is
essential in keeping an object in a static position or in changing
an objects direction or speed of movement. The experimental
values and the laws & equations allowed for the computation of
the value of the acceleration as 52.53 cm/s^2 and we were able to
compute for the angle of elevation from the equations.
When an object is in contact with another such as a tissue
or a piece of cloth on a table there is a force that is generated
on the surface of contact, this force holds these two objects in
place in relative to each other and hindering them from moving
freely along. Another everyday experience is being
accidentally rubbed against someone or something due to the
lack of personal space, this happens mostly in crowded places,
this rubbing slows the individuals down by dispensing heat as a
result of the friction that occurred, it also occurs in machines
where there are moving parts and oftentimes reduces the
efficiency of these machines by wasting heat as a result of
motion, but friction is also indispensable as it allows humans
and machines to slow down, stop and start again. When a
human is not moving for example there is static friction that
result from simply standing or sitting, it is also felt when
standing up in a stationary position as it is the one that prevents
slipping while standing up or sitting, friction is also useful to
produce heat from kinetic energy, an example of that would be
the basis of work of a simple matchstick, different materials
have different coefficient of friction as this paper will explain.
Friction is a force that resists the motion of an object by
way of dispersing the kinetic energy into thermal energy and
thus reducing its velocity or hindering its motion. In theory any
two objects touching each other produce friction, even at rest
there is static friction which is usually denoted by
. When
an object is in motion it has already overcame the force of
static friction, and encounters kinetic friction which is denoted
. The standard equation for friction can be given as:
N F = (1)
Where F is The Applied force, is the coefficient of friction
and N is the normal force which is pushing the two objects
together, in a case where an object is resting or moving on a
flat surface N can be translated as its weight, but when the
object is on an incline, cosu of the angle must be multiplied by
the weight in order to obtain the correct normal force using the
following equation :
u cos w N = (2)
Knowing The Forces applied it is now possible to calculate
for the coefficient of friction using the following formula:

= (3)
The following instruction will lead us towards achieving a
successful experiment, the materials needed are:
a Dynamic cart, a chronometer and a meter stick., it is
important to set-up the Dynamic cart on a stable surface while
slightly elevating one end of the cart
- Take measures of the length of your dynamic carts rail.
- Place the dynamic cart at one end of the rail and press
the carts spring in.
- Have a friend to help you time how long it takes the cart
to get to a travel the specified distance at the defined
angle of elevation.
Record them on a table; these will help in calculating the
acceleration of the cart.

Pictures :

Fig. 1: Shows the materials needed to conduct the experiment

Fig. 2: Shows the timing procedure

The main objective of this experiment is to be able to
determine the coefficient of friction and also to calculate the
angle of inclination. Since the given equation for up slope
acceleration is:
a = +g sinu+rg (4)
Where a is acceleration of the object, u is the angle of
inclination, r is the coefficient of friction and g is earths
gravitational acceleration. Knowing that the equation for down
slope acceleration is:
a = g sinu -rg (5)

After obtaining the values for a experimentally it is possible to
solve for acceleration using the following equation

a = (6)
The numerical values that were obtained & filled the table are
now experimental values that will help us determine the
coefficient of friction and the angle of inclination.
During the experiment the following values have been
obtained and calculated:

Table1. Experimental Values for distance in a direction
Trial First Direction
1 d(cm) t(sec) a(
2 61 2.38 21.53
3 61 2.55 18.76
4 61 2.52 19.21
5 61 2.80 15.56
6 61 2.56 18.61

Table2. Experimental Values for distance in another direction
Average acceleration = 70.09
Trial Second Direction
1 d(cm) t(sec) a(
2 61 2.31 71.09
3 61 1.30 72.19
4 61 1.30 72.19
5 61 1.36 65.96
6 61 1.35 66.94
Average 61 1.524 69.674

The table shows the time taken for the cart to get to cross the
distance taken on the rail. And from these values and knowing
that the acceleration is the change in velocity divided by the
time interval, it was possible to calculate the carts acceleration
in centimeter/
second .
The initial releasing position is at 110 cm and the final
position is at 18 cm, using simple arithmetic operations the
result can be concluded as 92 cm which is the distance
travelled. The following results were obtained from the
experiment. From the experimental values obtained,
acceleration can be calculated and then using the other
formulas, the angle u coefficient of friction can also be
calculated. The values show that the average acceleration is
higher when the cart is moving at a lower angle.

We can calculate for the acceleration using equation 6.

524 . 1
) 61 ( 2
= a = 52.53

And for u :
a = g sinu (ignoring friction)
52.53= (9.8)sinu
Therefore u = 1.57

Guide questions :

What would be another way of measuring friction?
Since friction is basically lost energy as heat, it is possible to
measure the heat that was generated and compute for the
friction that caused the release of thermal energy.

Would the force needed to overcome friction of the same
object on earth be more or less than the force needed on
the moon?
The force needed would be less on the moon since the
resisting friction relies on the weight of the object which
relies on the moons gravity which is 1/6th earths gravity.
Would the digits on the table be bigger or smaller if the
rail of the dynamics cart was inclined with a higher,
lower angle?
The digits representing the time taken to travel a specific
distance would be smaller as the inclination gets lower or
approaches a horizontal position.
Does the surface area that is in contact between two
objects affect the friction?
No, since N F = , surface area has no effect on friction.


The Experiment was conducted using a dynamics cart and a
chronometer, the time that it took the cart to get to a full stop
was noted and by knowing the distance that it traveled, the
experiment shows how to compute for the acceleration. We
have concluded that the coefficient of friction and the
acceleration which was calculated from the tables
experimental values are slightly off by a small percentage as
they are not 100% accurate due to human error which is
represented here as the differences in timing the carts travel
time, it can also be added that other minor factors which might
have slightly altered the results these might be air drag and
external vibrations on the experimenting table. In order to
minimize errors, it is recommended that the experiment should
be conducted in a quiet environment, far from any major
sources of noise or wind and student's body contact with the
table should be minimal in order to avoid vibrations from the
table. The experiment could have been more accurate if the
students were using a more accurate method of timing, for
example by using electronic relays which trigger the
chronometer when the cart starts and sensors to stop the
chronometer when the cart travels the designated distance.

[1] - Johnson, Clifford V. "Friction." Microsoft Student
2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.

[2] - De La Salle University -

[3] Cutnell & Johnson Physics 5th ed.
Chapter 4 - forces and Newtons laws of motion

[4] - Physics Exploring Life through Science 2
Silverio, Angelina