Research Into the Forces of Rollercoasters - Gcse Physics Coursework

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Roller coasters Part 1: Research and collecting secondary data What are the main energy transfers that happen as a “car” travels along the track from the start of the ride to the end? The main energy transfers are between gravitational potential energy (GPE) and kinetic energy (KE) [1][2][3][4][5], and the eventual decrease of mechanical energy as it transforms into thermal energy. Roller coasters often start as a chain and motor exercises a force on the car to lift it up to the top of a very tall hill [4]. At this height, GPE is at its highest [1][2][3][4][5], as we can see through the formula: GPE = mass x gravitational field strength x height [3][4] (for all physics in relation to Earth, take g to be 10 m/s2 or 10 N/kg) We can see through this formula that as the height increases, so does the GPE, which will then be converted into KE, or kinetic energy. This is the energy that takes place as the “car” is falling down the hill. This is calculated through the formula: KE = 0.5 x mass x speed2 [3][4] This means that the kinetic energy increases as the speed increases, and vice versa. Therefore, this means the higher the kinetic energy, the faster the “car”. We can actually be extremely specific in terms of this relationship. We know that as the mass doubles, the KE doubles, but as the speed doubles, the KE quadruples [2]. This becomes important when analysing this formula: KE = GPE/0.5mv2 = mgh [3] This shows the mathematical relationship between KE and GPE. This formula is in effect as the “car” is falling or rising a hill. The formula shows, that the KE gained, is equal to the GPE lost, and vice versa. To analyse this further, we can observe Newton’s first law of motion. Newton’s law describes how an object in motion, remains in motion. This is why the roller coaster continues going up the slope [1]. However, the KE is lost, as gravity takes effect and
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