Momentum is a fundamental concept in physics that describes the motion of an object. It is defined as the product of an object’s mass and its velocity. In certain situations, such as when no external forces act on a system, the total momentum of that system remains constant. This principle is known as the conservation of momentum.
In this blog post, we will explore how to find momentum using the conservation laws. We will discuss the formula for conservation of momentum, how to apply it, and provide workedout examples. We will also examine the conditions for the validity of conservation of momentum, instances where it does not apply, and methods to determine if momentum is conserved or not. Additionally, we will explore techniques to calculate momentum without velocity or mass and discuss the predictions and applications of the law of conservation of momentum.
The Formula for Conservation of Momentum
Explanation of the Momentum Conservation Law Formula
The formula for the conservation of momentum is based on the principle that the total momentum of an isolated system remains constant. Mathematically, it can be expressed as:
This equation signifies that the sum of the momenta of all objects involved in a system before an event is equal to the sum of their momenta after the event.
How to Apply the Momentum Conservation Law Formula
To apply the conservation of momentum formula, follow these steps:

Identify the system: Determine the objects or particles that make up the system for which you want to calculate the momentum.

Define the initial and final states: Specify the initial state of the system, where the objects have certain velocities and masses. Then, determine the final state after the event or interaction has occurred.

Calculate the momentum: Find the momentum of each object in the initial and final states by multiplying its mass by its velocity.

Formulate the equation: Write an equation equating the total initial momentum to the total final momentum.

Solve for the unknowns: If there are unknown velocities or masses, use algebraic methods to solve for them.
Worked Out Examples Using the Momentum Conservation Law Formula
Let’s see an example of how to apply the conservation of momentum formula:
Example: Two cars, car A and car B, are initially at rest. Car A has a mass of 1000 kg, and car B has a mass of 1500 kg. Car A collides with car B, and they stick together after the collision. Find their final velocity.
Solution: 1. Identify the system: The system consists of car A and car B.

Define the initial and final states: The initial state is when both cars are at rest. The final state is after they collide and stick together.

Calculate the momentum: The initial momentum of car A and car B is zero since they are at rest. The final momentum is the sum of their masses multiplied by their final velocity, which we’ll denote as V.

Formulate the equation: The equation for conservation of momentum is:
 Solve for the unknowns: Divide both sides of the equation by 2500 kg to solve for V:
Therefore, the final velocity of the combined cars is zero meters per second.
When and Where Does Conservation of Momentum Apply
Conditions for the Validity of Conservation of Momentum
The conservation of momentum applies under certain conditions:

Isolated system: The system must be isolated, meaning it doesn’t interact with external forces or objects. This condition ensures that no external forces affect the momentum of the system.

No internal forces: The internal forces within the system should not result in a net change in momentum. Internal forces cancel each other out, leading to a constant total momentum.
Instances Where Conservation of Momentum Does Not Apply
There are instances where the conservation of momentum does not apply:

External forces: If external forces act on the system, the conservation of momentum may not hold. These external forces can alter the momentum of the system.

Collisions with energy transfer: If there is energy transfer during a collision, such as an explosion or inelastic collision, the conservation of momentum alone is not sufficient to describe the event accurately.
How to Determine if Momentum is Conserved or Not
To determine if momentum is conserved in a given situation, follow these steps:

Identify the system: Define the objects or particles that make up the system.

Analyze the forces: Determine if there are any external forces acting on the system. If there are external forces, momentum may not be conserved.

Calculate momentum: Calculate the momentum of each object before and after the event or interaction.

Compare initial and final momentum: If the total initial momentum is not equal to the total final momentum, then momentum is not conserved.
How to Calculate Momentum without Velocity or Mass
Techniques to Find Momentum without Velocity
In some situations, you may need to calculate momentum without knowing the velocity. In such cases, you can use the concept of impulse. Impulse is defined as the change in momentum of an object and is equal to the product of the force acting on the object and the time interval over which the force is applied.
The formula to calculate impulse is:
By knowing the force and the time interval, you can determine the change in momentum and subsequently calculate the momentum.
Methods to Determine Momentum without Mass
If you need to find momentum without knowing the mass, but you know the force and velocity, you can use Newton’s second law of motion:
Rearranging the equation, we can solve for mass:
Once you have the mass, you can calculate momentum by multiplying the mass by the velocity.
Worked Out Examples on Finding Momentum without Velocity or Mass
Let’s work through an example to illustrate how to find momentum without velocity or mass:
Example: A force of 20 N acts on an object for a duration of 5 seconds. Find the change in momentum.
Solution: To find the change in momentum, we can use the formula for impulse:
Substituting the given values:
The change in momentum is 100 N·s.
Predictions and Applications of the Law of Conservation of Momentum
What Can the Law of Conservation of Momentum Predict
The law of conservation of momentum can predict various outcomes in physical systems. It can be used to predict the motion of objects involved in collisions or interactions, such as in billiards or car crashes. By applying the conservation of momentum, one can determine the final velocities, directions, and overall behavior of the objects involved.
Practical Applications of the Law of Conservation of Momentum
The law of conservation of momentum has practical applications in numerous fields, including:

Automotive safety: Understanding the conservation of momentum helps engineers design safer vehicles by predicting the behavior of vehicles during collisions.

Sports: The conservation of momentum is relevant in sports like baseball, where the speed and direction of a ball after being hit depend on the conservation of momentum.

Rocket propulsion: The principles of conservation of momentum are crucial in rocket propulsion systems. By expelling gases with high velocity, rockets can achieve high speeds in the opposite direction.
Momentum Conservation Lab: A Practical Demonstration
To further understand and apply the law of conservation of momentum, consider conducting a momentum conservation lab. In this lab, you can set up different scenarios involving collisions or interactions and measure the momentum before and after the event. By comparing the initial and final momentum values, you can verify the conservation of momentum and gain handson experience with the concept.
Numerical Problems on How to Find Momentum with Conservation Laws
Problem 1:
A ball of mass 0.5 kg moving with a velocity of 4 m/s collides with another ball of mass 0.3 kg initially at rest. After the collision, the first ball moves with a velocity of 1 m/s in the same direction. Find the velocity of the second ball after the collision.
Solution:
Let the velocity of the second ball after the collision be .
According to the law of conservation of momentum,
where mass of the first ball = 0.5 kg, initial velocity of the first ball = 4 m/s, mass of the second ball = 0.3 kg, initial velocity of the second ball = 0 m/s (initially at rest), final velocity of the first ball = 1 m/s, final velocity of the second ball (to be determined).
Substituting the given values,
Therefore, the velocity of the second ball after the collision is 5 m/s.
Problem 2:
A car of mass 1200 kg is moving with a velocity of 20 m/s. It collides with a stationary car of mass 1500 kg. After the collision, both cars move together with a velocity of 10 m/s. Find the initial velocity of the second car.
Solution:
Let the initial velocity of the second car be .
According to the law of conservation of momentum,
where mass of the first car = 1200 kg, initial velocity of the first car = 20 m/s, mass of the second car = 1500 kg, initial velocity of the second car (to be determined), final velocity of both cars after the collision = 10 m/s.
Substituting the given values,
This is not possible. Therefore, there must be an error in the given information or calculation.
Problem 3:
A gun of mass 2 kg fires a bullet of mass 0.05 kg with an initial velocity of 400 m/s. Determine the recoil velocity of the gun.
Solution:
Let the recoil velocity of the gun be .
According to the law of conservation of momentum,
where mass of the gun = 2 kg, initial velocity of the gun = 0 m/s (initially at rest), mass of the bullet = 0.05 kg, final velocity of the gun (to be determined), final velocity of the bullet = 400 m/s (opposite direction of the initial velocity).
Substituting the given values,
Therefore, the recoil velocity of the gun is 10 m/s.