What Causes Centripetal Acceleration: 7 Facts You Should Know

Centripetal refers to “center seeking,” hence the force felt by an item moving in a circle is referred to as centripetal force.

Centripetal accelerations are brought on by centripetal forces. Any satellite’s circular motion around a celestial body, with the exception of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun, is caused by the centripetal force created by their mutual gravitational attraction.

As an illustration, when a person spins a ball suspended from a rope horizontally over his head, the rope transfers a centripetal force generated by the muscles in the hand and arm, causing the ball to move in a circular motion.

The distance travelled in the special situation of circular motion is equal to the circumference of a circle, or 2r, where r is the circle’s radius and is a mathematical constant. The period is denoted by letter T which is the amount of time taken by an object to finish one complete rotation of its own circular route.

“Centripetal acceleration” Image Credits: Wikimedia

What Is Centripetal Acceleration?

A shift in velocity is known as an acceleration. So how does something travelling in a circle at a constant speed experience acceleration? Velocity and speed aren’t quite the same thing, though. Speed is simply how quickly you’re moving.

Because it lacks a direction, it is a scalar. Your speed and direction are your velocity, on the other hand. It has a direction, making it a vector. As an illustration, 3 mph is a speed, but 3 mph south is a velocity.

The direction of an object travelling in a circle changes continuously, so does its velocity. Additionally, any time an object’s velocity changes, even if only in one direction rather than both, that object must be speeding up.

What causes centripetal acceleration facts?

If we take a uniform circular motion into account, we can observe that the speed and the separation between the item and the centre do not change, making the centripetal acceleration a constant as well.

The radius vector, which is basically claimed to be connected to the radius of the path along which the circular motion occurs it, is one of the factors to be kept in mind. The vector is the centripetal acceleration directed, i.e., it is inwards, along this radius.

There is a dependency for the centripetal acceleration and the two main factors it depends on it is the tangential speed and the angular velocity of the object under motion.

If we consider the uniform circular motion then the centripetal acceleration is not regarded to be a constant vector. The reason being is that the velocity and the separation between the object under motion in the centre always remains constant.

The vector, or radius vector, is corresponding to the circular motion’s radius. The vector represents the direction of the centripetal acceleration along this radius. Hence, it is internal.

Where r is regarded as the radius, v is regarded as the tangential velocity, and ac is regarded as the centripetal acceleration. The centripetal acceleration often has a negative sign in vector form.

What causes centripetal acceleration?

The general force causes the centripetal acceleration. It is the tension in the string for a game of swing ball (or tetherball).

It is gravity’s pull on a satellite. The force which exists between the car and the turning is the frictional force and it is also called as the bridging force.

The object will continue moving in a straight path perpendicular to the circle if you remove that force, which also removes the centripetal acceleration.

what causes centripetal acceleration
“Swinging ball” Image Credits: Wikimedia

What factors affecting centripetal acceleration?

The kind of force required to move the object in circular motion is regarded to be the centripetal force. There are mainly three factors which affect the centripetal force and are as given: mass of the object; its speed; the radius of the circle.

At constant tangential velocity and circular path radius, centripetal force is linearly proportional to the object mass.

Slope = F / m = v² / r

At constant radius of a circular path and object mass, centripetal force is directly proportional to the square of the tangential velocity.

Slope = F / v² = m / r

F = m v² / r

At constant tangential velocity and object mass, centripetal force is inversely proportional to the radius of the circular path.

Slope = F r = m v²

What force causes centripetal acceleration when the coin is stationary relative to the turntable?

The static friction force that is existing between the coin and the turntable mainly exists when the coin and turntable are at rest with respect to each other and in turn it produces the centripetal acceleration that drives the system in motion.

What force causes centripetal acceleration of a car making a turn?

Generally there exists a force called the frictional force between the tyre and the road and this is the only reason for the car to move in circular motion. If there isn’t enough friction, the automobile will move in a curve with a bigger radius and veer off the road.

Let’s say we focus on a certain car doing a specific banked curve. Since the car’s mass and turn radius are fixed, the centripetal force required to turn the car (mv2/r) relies on its speed; higher speeds necessitate greater centripetal forces, while lower speeds necessitate smaller centripetal forces.

On following the arithmetic pattern, the amount of centripetal force required for the car to turn is as given (the horizontal component of the normal force = mg tan θ) is fixed (since the mass of the car and the bank angle are fixed rates). It follows that our discovery of the speed at which the centripetal force required to turn the car matches the centripetal force generated by the road makes sense.

A car’s weight, mg, which pulls the vehicle downward, and the normal force, N, caused by the road, which pushes the vehicle upward, are the forces acting on the vehicle when it is on a level (unbanked) surface.

There is no horizontal component to either of these forces, which both act vertically. Without friction, there is no force that can generate the centripetal force necessary to cause the car to drive in a circular motion; the vehicle cannot spin.

On the other hand, the normal force, which is always perpendicular to the surface of the road, is no longer vertical if the car is in a banked turn.

It will be necessary for the car to move at just the proper speed so that the centripetal force it requires is equal to the force that is already present, but it is possible. Even on perfectly smooth ice, a car could safely navigate a banked curve if driven at just the proper speed.

“Acceleration of car” Image Credits: Wikimedia

What causes centripetal acceleration of an electron in a hydrogen atom?

There exists negative and positive charge, for electron it is the negative and for the nucleus it is the positive charge. The centripetal force required for the electrons to revolve around the nucleus is provided by this electrostatic force.

“Hydrogen atom” Image credits: Wikimedia


Centripetal acceleration has a magnitude and this magnitude has direct dependency over the tangential speed and the angular velocity. Keeping all these facts in mind we may now conclude that the centripetal acceleration is caused by several other factors but as these two factors too. Also the centripetal acceleration is regarded to be the scalar number.

Keerthana Srikumar

I am Keerthana Srikumar, a post-graduate in Physics. I’m currently pursuing PhD in the area of thin films. I always have a passion for writing and to inspire as many willing minds through my words. Physics is a subject that is used by everyone as basics to navigate their lives. I use writing as a tool to explain it in the most understandable and simplest and way possible. You can connect me through: Email: keerthana48@gmail.com

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