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Conservation of Momentum Lab

Yousaf Bajwa, Daniel Ngyuen, Julie Brassel


Purpose: To prove through empirical data that momentum is always conserved in

collisions within a system.

Introduction: Whenever two objects collide, the momentum is always conserved

so long as no external forces are acting on the system. The momentum is given as a
vector quantity, p=mv, since it has both magnitude and direction. Momentum is
conserved regardless of the type of collision. A collision can be either elastic, where
kinetic energy is conserved, or inelastic where the kinetic energy is absorbed within
the system. In this experiment, we will use two marbles to demonstrate the law of
conservation of momentum. Through the use of known initial velocities, we will be
able to determine the initial momentum of the system. We will then use the
distance traveled by the balls to determine their final velocities, and therefore
m v + m v + . . .+ m v = m v + m v + . . .+ m v
obtain the final momentum.
1 1 i 2 2 i Through
n nthe
i use
1 1 of
f the
2 equation:
2 f n n f

we will be able to relate these two quantities and test the validity of the law of
conservation of momentum. Because momentum is a vector quantity, it is
important to take into account the direction of the velocities. Their components in
just one dimension will be the same before and after a collision. Our setup will allow
us to empirically verify the law of conservation of mass.

The independent variable in the experiment overall is the type of marble

used to provide the initial momentum. Within each trial, however, nothing is being
changed. Due to this, a graph cannot be made.

The dependent variable in the experiment is the distance traveled by the two
marbles. Like the independent variable, this is not true in each trial because there
should theoretically be no change in the distance the balls travel.

Materials: (1) Steel Marble, (1) Glass Marble, (1) Sloped Track, (1) Meter Stick, (1)
Carbon Paper, (1) White Paper, (1) Clamp

1. Determine the masses of the marbles.

2. Set up experiment as shown in diagram.

3. Adjust the screw at the bottom of the ramp so as to have an as close to

ideal one-dimensional collision as possible.

4. Hold the steel marble at the top of the ramp and let go.

5. Determine the distance the marble traveled by observing the black dots on
the white paper.

6. Use basic kinematics equations to determine the velocity with which the
marble traveled.

7. Place the glass marble on to the screw at the bottom of the ramp.

8. Hold the steel marble at the top of the ramp and let go.

9. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to determine the velocities of each marble.

10. Using the initial and final momentums of the system, determine if the law
of conservation of momentum was verified.

Raw Data:

Distance Steel Distance Steel Marble Distance Glass Marble

Marble Only (m) After Collision (m) After Collision (m)
1 0.484 0.342 0.382
2 0.495 0.338 0.401
3 0.496 0.323 0.422
4 0.485 0.339 0.411
5 0.489 0.340 0.409
Table Height: .825 m Glass Marble: 3.41 g
Steel Marble: 8.36 g

Data Analysis:

Final Velocity Glass Final Momentum Steel Marble

Conclusion: This lab validates the Law
Final Velocity Steel Marble (m/s) Marble (m/s)of Conservation of Mass. The percent
Tri difference between the final and initial momentums was very small. This means
al that, for the most part, the momentums of the two marbles were equal to the
1 momentum of the steel marble0.8341before the collision.0.9317
The variables are related 0.0070
Tri because of the equation:
m v + m v + . . .+ m v = m v + m v + . . .+ m v
1 1 i 2 2 i n n i 1 1 f 2 2 f n n f
2 0.8244 0.9780 0.0069
3 0.7878 1.0293 0.0066
4 0.8268 1.0024 0.0069
5 0.8293 0.9976 0.0069
Final Momentum Glass Marble Final Momentum Percent Difference Initial and
(kg*(m/s)) System (kg*(m/s)) Final Momentums
1 0.0032 0.0102 1.4946
2 0.0033 0.0102 2.2450
3 0.0035 0.0101 0.9540
4 0.0034 0.0103 3.2523
5 0.0034 0.0103 3.2887
Theoretical Initial Velocity (m/s):
1.38 Theoretical Initial Momentum (kg*(m/s)): .012
Initial Velocity System/Steel
Marble (m/s): 1.20 Initial Momentum System/Steel Marble (kg*(m/s)): .010
Time for Ball to Hit Ground (s): .
We saw that the momentum of the steel marble after the collision was greater than
the momentum of the glass marble after the collision. This is because the steel
marble had a greater mass. The variables concerning this finding are related
because of the formula p=mv. Another one of our findings was that although the
balls traveled different distances, they hit the ground at the same time. This is
because of the absence of vertical velocities. Basic kinematics states that horizontal
and vertical velocities are independent of each other. The time was consistent
because of the KECA-2, which shows that there are no variables which can change
the data. Although the data shows that the law is accurate, it also reveals a slight
degree of error in the experiment. The largest source of error was the friction
experienced by the steel marble on the ramp. The Law of Conservation of
Momentum states that it is true so long as an external force does not act upon it.
The friction caused the marble to slow down and lowered its momentum. This would
result in a greater percent error because the final momentum would appear to be
smaller than it should be. Another source of error is the possibility that the collision
was not completely one-dimensional. If the marbles hit each other at even the
slightest angle the final momentum would appear to be either greater or less than
what it should be since it would be harder to calculate distances traveled. Apart
from these two, there were no other major sources of error (as can be seen by the
very small percent differences). The Law of Conservation of Momentum is backed
up by empirical evidence collected in this lab.