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# Law of conservation of linear momentum

## LAW OF CONSERVATION OF LINEAR MOMENTUM

1. Statement : When no external force acts on a system, the linear momentum of the system
remains constant.
This is written in symbols as:
n n
If Fexternal = 0 , then p
1
i = 0 . Here is the symbol of summation. p means the sum of p
1
i i

## giving i values from 1 to n.

n
p
1
i = p1 + p2 + p3 + .......... + pn

A system is a collection of objects. If no external force acts on a system then during any process
p does not change. This means that the linear momentum before the process (called the initial
linear momentum) = linear momentum after the process (called the final linear momentum).
We usually denote initial momentum by pi and final momentum by pf.
If Fexternal = 0 then pf = pi
This law has wide ranging applications in Physics.
2. The following points will be useful in working examples applying this law :
a) There should be no external process acting on the system.
b) When we have two velocities v 1 and v2 which are along the same line but in opposite
directions then if we take v1 as positive then we take v2 as negative.

WORKED EXAMPLES
1. A bullet of mass m is fired with velocity v b from a gun of mass M. Will the gun also move?
If so what will be the velocity of the gun ?
Sol : The firing of the gun is an internal force. It does not require any external force to accelerate the
bullet. Understand the process of firing a gun.
The bullet (called the cartridge) consists of an outer steel shell with an
opening. It contains a lead bullet. Behind the bullet is a small chamber
which holds the gun powder. This gun power chamber has a high Lead bullet
Shell
quality cap inserted into it. Gun powder
When the trigger of a gun is pressed a hammer hits the cap. The cap Cap
ignites and makes the gun powder burn. The gun powder which is in
solid state becomes a gas. This increases its volume. But it is prevented from expansion.
Pressure increases. Due to burning its temperature also increases.

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Law of conservation of linear momentum
This makes the pressure of the gas increase further. The gas exerts a large force on the lead
bullet. The lead is forced out of the shell through the opening and is ejected out of the barrel
with a large velocity.
In this entire process there is no outside force acting on the bullet. Hence law of conservation of
linear momentum can be applied.
From this law the gun + bullet system shall have the same momentum before firing and after
firing. Initial momentum : Initially the gun and the bullet are both at rest. Each has zero velocity.
pi = m(0) + M(0) = 0
Final momentum :
Finally the bullet moves forward with velocity v b. The gun has to move such that the sum of
the momenta becomes zero. Let the gun move with velocity v g.
pf = Mvg + mvb
But pf = pi Mvg + mvb = 0
mvg = mvb
Direction of velocity of the gun :
The negative sign indicates that the gun moves in a direction exactly opposite to that of the
bullet.
Magnitude of velocity of gun:
m
The magnitude of guns velocity v g = vb .
M
Therefore if the bullet moves in the forward direction the gun moves in the backward direction.
This backward motion of the gun is called the recoil. The velocity in the recoil is called the recoil
velocity. This plays a significant role in use of fire arms.
You must have noticed that when a man fires from a riffle he holds the riffle pressing it hard into
the crook of his shoulder. He does this to prevent damage to his shoulder due to the recoil. If he
does not hold it pressing hard against the shoulder, the recoil velocity makes the gun move back
and hit him. Such a hit is likely to break the shoulder or collar bone.
2. A grenade of mass m at rest explodes into two pieces of masses m 1 and m2. How do
these pieces fly ?
Sol: Explosion is an internal process. There is no external force action on the grenade. Law of
conservation of linear momentum can be applied.
Initial momentum : mass m ; velocity = 0
pi = 0
Final momentum : Let m1 move with velocity v1. Let m2 move with velocity v2.
pf =m1v1 + m2v2
But pf = pi pf = 0

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Law of conservation of linear momentum
m1v1 + m2v2 = 0
m1v1 = m2v2
Directions of velocities: The pieces move along the same line in opposite directions.
If we are given either v1 or v2 we can find the other using m1v1 = m2v2.
3. A body of mass 3 kg moving with a velocity of 2 ms 1 hits another body of mass 2 kg at
rest. After the collision the two bodies stick together. Find the velocity of the combined
mass.
Sol: There is no external force involved in the collision. Therefore the law of conservation of linear
momentum can be applied.
There are two bodies in the system namely 3 kg body and the 2 kg body.
Initial momentum :
3 kg mass has velocity 2 ms1. p i 1 = 3 kg 2 ms1 = 6 kg ms1
2 kg mass is at reset. p i 2 = zero
p i = p i 1 + p i 2 = 6 kgms1 + 0 = 6 kgms1
Final momentum :
Finally with the masses merging to become a single mass 3 kg + 2kg there is only one mass
that is 5 kg.
Let its velocity be v.
pf = 5 kg v
By Law of Conservation of linear momentum.
pf = pi
5 kg v = 6 kg ms1
6kgms-1
v= = 1.2 ms1
5kg

As v is positive, the combined mass moves with velocity 1.2 ms 1 in the initial direction of the
3 kg mass.
4. A body of mass 2kg moving at 5 ms 1 collides with a body of mass 1 kg moving in the
same direction with velocity 2 ms 1. After collision the masses stick to each other. Find
the velocity of the combined mass.
Sol: Two bodies of masses 2 kg and 1 kg constitute the system. In the system collision is the
process that took place. It is an internal process. There is no external force involved. The law
of conservation of linear momentum can be applied.
pf = pi
Initial momentum :
Initially the two bodies are moving :

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Law of conservation of linear momentum
pi1 = 2 kg 5 ms1 = 10 kg ms1
pi2 = 1 kg 2 ms1 = 2 kg ms1
pi = pi1 + pi2 = 10 kgms1 + 2 kgms1 = 12 kg ms1
Final momentum :
Finally the two bodies stick together and move as a single mass 2 kg + 1kg = 3 kg
Let the velocity of the combined mass be v.
Final momentum = pf = 3 kg v.
By law of conservation momentum pf = pi.
3 kg v = 12 kg ms1
v = 4 ms1

## 5. A body of mass 0.5 kg is moving at 16 ms 1. Another body of mass 1 kg is moving along

the same line but in the exactly opposite direction with velocity 2 ms 1. They collide and
stick together. Find the velocity of the combined mass.
Sol: The two bodies of masses 0.5 kg and 1 kg constitute the system. Collision is an internal process
of the system. There is no external process involved. Law of conservation of linear momentum
can be applied.
pf = pi
Initial momentum :
Initially the two bodies are moving in the exactly opposite directions. If the velocity of one body
is taken positive then the velocity of the other body becomes negative.
Let us take the velocity of the 0.5 kg body as + ve.
pi1 = 0.5 kg 16 ms1 = 8 kg ms1
pi2 = 1 kg ( - 2 ms1) = - 2kg ms1
pi = pi1 + pi2 = 8 kg ms1 2 kg ms1 = 6 kg ms1
Final momentum :
Let the combine mass move with velocity v.
The combined mass is 0.5 kg + 1 kg = 1.5 kg
pf = 1.5 kg v
By law of Conservation of linear momentum pf = pi.
1.5 kg v = 6 kg ms1
v = 4 ms1
As the velocity v of the combined mass is positive it moves in the initial direction of the 0.5 kg
mass whose velocity we took to be positive.

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Law of conservation of linear momentum

LEVEL I
1. A stationary grenade of mass 5 kg explodes into two pieces of masses 2 kg and 3 kg. The piece
of mass 2kg files off at 90 ms1. Find the velocity of the 3 kg mass.
2. The mass of a gun is 4 kg. It fires a bullet of mass 40 g with a velocity 900 ms 1. Find the recoil
velocity of the gun.
3. A body of mass 20 g moving with a velocity of 40 cms 1 collides with another body of mass 40 g
moving in the same direction with a velocity 10 cms 1 and sticks to it. Find the common velocity
of the combined mass.
4. A body of mass 100 g moving with velocity 100 cms 1 collides with another body of mass 50 g
and moving with velocity 40 cms1 in the exactly opposite direction. If the bodies stick together
after collision, find the velocity of the common mass.
5. A riffle bullet of mass 12.5 g leaves the riffle with a velocity of 500 ms 1. The velocity of recoil of
the riffle is 5 ms1. Find the mass of the riffle.
6. A gun weighing 10 kg fires a bullet of mass 30 g with a velocity of 330 ms 1. Find
i) the recoil velocity of the gun
ii) the momentum of the gun and bullet system before firing.
iii) the momentum of the gun and the bullet system after firing.
7. A body of mass 10 kg moving with a velocity of 2 ms 1 collides with another body of mass 20 kg
and moving with a velocity 4 ms 1 in the opposite direction. After the collision, the bodies move
together. Find the common velocity.
8. A body of mass 1 kg and velocity 10 ms 1 collides with another body of mass 3 kg moving with
velocity 2 ms1 in the exactly opposite direction. On collision, the bodies stick together. Find the
common velocity.
9. A bomb of mass 6 kg at rest explodes into two pieces of masses 1.5 kg and 4.5 kg. Find the
ratio of their velocities.
10. A gun of mass 2 kg fires a bullet of mass 20 g. The recoil velocity of the gun is 8 ms 1. Find the
velocity of the bullet.
LEVEL II
1. A body of mass 100 g moving at 4.5 ms 1 collides with a body of mass 50 g at rest and sticks to
it. The combined mass moves and collides with another body of mass 50 g at rest and sticks to
it. Find the final velocity of the 200 g mass.
2. A body A of mass 2 kg at rest is acted upon by a force of 4 N for three seconds. It collides with a
body B of mass 1 kg moving in the same direction at 1.5 ms 1 and sticks to it. Find the velocity
of the combined mass.
3. A body of mass 20 kg is moving at 6 ms1. Another body of mass 10 kg is moving in the opposite
direction with a velocity of 3 ms1. The masses stick together after collision. What force is
needed to bring the combined mass to rest in 10 s ?
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Law of conservation of linear momentum
1
4. A body of mass 20 kg moving at 8 ms is subjected to a retarding force of 30 N. The retarding
force acts for 4 s. After the retarding force is removed the body collides with another body of
mass 10 kg moving at 1.9 ms 1 in the opposite direction. The two bodies stick to one another on
collision. Find the velocity of the combined mass.
5. A bullet of mass 2 g moving with a velocity 500 ms 1 is fired into a block of wood of mass 1 kg.
The bullet emerges out of the block with a velocity v. If the block starts moving with a velocity
0.8 ms1, find v.

KEY to LEVEL I
1) 60 ms1 2) 9 ms1 3) 20 cms1 4) 53.3 cms1 5) 1.25 kg
6) i) 0.99 ms1, ii) zero, iii) zero 7) 20 ms1 in direction of motion of 20 kg body
8) 1 ms1 in the direction of motion of 1 kg 9) 3 : 1 10) 800 ms1

KEY TO LEVEL II
1) 2.25 ms1 2) 4.5 ms1 3) 9 N
1
4) 0.7 ms in the direction of motion of 20 kg mass 5) 100 ms1

WORK SHEET
1. A body of mass 4 kg moving with a velocity of 3 ms 1 hits another body of mass 3 kg at rest.
After collision the two bodies stick together. Find the velocity of the combined mass.
2. A body of mass 2 kg moving at 5 ms 1 collides with a body of mass 1kg moving in the same
direction with velocity 2 ms1.After collision the masses stick to each other. Find the velocity of
the combined mass.
3. A body of mass 2 kg is moving at 24 ms 1. Another body of mass 4 kg moving along the same
line but exactly opposite direction with velocity 4 ms 1. They collide and stick together. Find the
velocity of the combined mass.
4. A stationary grenade of mass 4 kg explodes into two pieces of masses 1 kg and 3 kg. The piece
of mass 1 kg flies off at 120 ms1. Find the velocity of the 3 kg mass.
5. The mass of a gun is 5 kg. It fires a bullet of mass 45 g with a velocity of 900 ms 1.Find the
recoil velocity of the gun.
6. The gun of mass 2 kg fires a bullet of mass 20 g. The recoil velocity of the gun is 8 ms 1. Find
the velocity of the bullet.

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Law of conservation of linear momentum
7. A goods train of mass 200 metric ton moving with a velocity of 72 kmh 1 collides with a
passenger train of mass 300 metric ton coming in the opposite direction on the same track with
a velocity of 54 kmh1. If they move together after collision, find their common velocity.
8. A bullet of may 50 g is fired from a gun. If the bullet acquires a velocity of 100 ms 1 in
0.1 second, what is the recoil force on the gun?
9. A bullet of mass 2g moving with a velocity 500 ms 1 is fired into a block of wood of mass 1 kg
the bullet emerges out of the block with a velocity V. If the block starts moving with a velocity 0.8
ms1, find V.
10. A gun weighting 8 kg fires a bullet of mass 40g with a velocity 400 ms 1. Find.
(i) the recoil velocity of the gun
(ii) the momentum of the gun and bullet system before firing.
(iii) the momentum of the gun and bullet system after firing.
11. A projectile weighing 200 kg is fired a gun weighing 8000 kg with a velocity of 5 ms 1. Find the
velocity of recoil of gun?
12. A body of mass 100 g and velocity 100 cm/sec collides with another body of mass 50 g and
velocity 40 cm /sec coming from the opposite direction. After collision the two bodies move
together. Find the velocity after collision.
13. A bullet of mass 10 g starts from rest from the end of the barrel. If the gun 1 metre long and
weighing 5 kg. The bullet leaves at the other end with a velocity of 400 ms 1. Calculate the
velocity of recoil of the gun.

## 6) 800 ms1 7) 3.6 km h1 8) 50 N 9) 100 ms1

10) (i) 2 ms1, (ii) zero (iii) 32 kg ms1 11) 12.5 ms1 12) 53.33 cms1

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