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Center of mass

Interactions between parts of a system transfer momentum between the parts, but do not change the total momentum of the system. We can define apoint called the center of mass that serves as an average location of a system of parts.

The center of mass need not necessarily be at a location that is either in or on one of the parts. For example, the center of mass of a pair of heavy rods connected at oneend so as to form a "V" shape is somewhere in space between the two rods.

Having determined the center of mass for a system, we can treat the mass of the system as if it were all concentrated at the center of mass.

Location of the center of mass

For a system composed of two masses, the center of mass lies somewhere on a line between the two masses. The center of mass is a weighted average of the positions of the twomasses.

Facts worth remembering -- Center of mass for two objects

For a pair of masses located at two points along the x-axis, we can write

xcm = (m1*x1/M) + (m2*x2/M)


  • xcm is the x-coordinate of the center of mass
  • m1 and m2 are the values of the two masses
  • x1 and x2 are the locations of the two masses
  • M is the sum of m1 and m2

Multiple masses in three dimensions

When we have multiple masses in three dimensions, the definition of the center of mass is somewhat more complicated.

Facts worth remembering -- Center of mass for many objects

Vector form:

rcm = sum over all i(mi*ri / M)

Component form:

xcm = sum over all i(mi*xi / M)

ycm = sum over all i(mi*yi / M)

zcm = sum over all i(mi*zi / M)


  • Vector form
    • rcm is a position vector describing the location of the center of mass
    • ri are position vectors describing the locations of all the masses
    • mi are masses for i=1, i=2, etc.
  • Component form
    • xcm, ycm, and zcm are the locations of the center of mass along 3-dimensional axes.
    • mi are masses for i=1, i=2, etc.
    • xi, yi, and zi are the locations of the masses along 3-dimensional axes for i=1, i=2, etc.
    • M is the sum of all of the masses

Motion of the center of mass

It can be shown that in an isolated system, the center of mass must move with constant velocity regardless of the motions of the individual particles.

It can be shown that in a non-isolated system, if a net external force acts on a system, the center of mass does not movewith constant velocity. Instead, it moves as if all the mass were concentrated there into a fictitious point particle with all the external forces acting on that point.

Example scenarios

This section contains explanations and computations involving momentum, impulse, action and reaction, andthe conservation of momentum.

Momentum examples

This section contains several examples involving momentum

A sprinter

Use the Google calculator to compute the momentum of a 70-kg sprinter running 30 m/s at 0 degrees.

Answer: 2100 kg*m/s at 0 degrees

A truck

Use the Google calculator to compute the momentum in kg*m/s of a 2205-lb truck traveling 33.6 miles per hour at 0 degrees when the changes listed belowoccur:

  1. Initial momentum
  2. Momentum when velocity is doubled
  3. Momentum at initial velocity when mass is doubled
  4. Momentum when both velocity and mass are doubled

Questions & Answers

do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Accessible physics concepts for blind students. OpenStax CNX. Oct 02, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11294/1.36
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