What is Terminal Velocity?

Definition: Terminal Velocity is the maximum velocity that an object can reach when it falls through a fluid medium. When an object falls, it experiences two forces: weight and air resistance. Weight is the force that pulls the object towards the ground, while air resistance is the force that acts in the opposite direction, slowing down the object’s motion. Additionally, we can also define terminal velocity as the maximum constant velocity of a freely falling body for which drag force becomes equal to its weight. The symbol for terminal velocity is Vt.

What is Terminal Velocity?

As the object’s speed increases, the air resistance also increases until it becomes equal to the weight. At this point, the net force acting on the object becomes zero, and the object reaches its maximum speed.

Have you ever wondered how fast an object can fall? What happens when it reaches its maximum speed? The answer to these questions would be revealed in this article. It is a fascinating physical phenomenon that occurs when an object falls through a fluid medium, such as air or water. In this article, we will explore Terminal Velocity in detail, including its definition, formula, and real-life applications. So, let’s dive in!

Formula

The Terminal Velocity of an object depends on various factors, including its mass, shape, and the density and viscosity of the fluid medium. The Terminal Velocity formula is:

Vt = √[(2mg)/(ρACd)]

where:

Vt is the Terminal Velocity in meters per second (m/s)

m is the mass of the object in kilograms (kg)

g is the acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s²)

ρ is the density of the fluid medium in kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m³)

A is the projected area of the object in square meters (m²)

Cd is the drag coefficient, which depends on the object’s shape and the fluid medium

Factors

As mentioned earlier, Terminal Velocity (Vt) depends on several factors, some of which are:

1. Mass of the Object

The Terminal Velocity of an object is directly proportional to its mass. In other words, the heavier the object, the higher its Vt.

2. The shape of the Object

The shape of the object affects its Terminal Velocity. Objects with a streamlined shape, such as a bullet, experience less air resistance and have a higher Vt than objects with an irregular shape, such as a feather.

3. Density and Viscosity of the Fluid Medium

The density and viscosity of the fluid medium through which the object is falling also affect its Terminal Velocity. Objects falling through denser and more viscous fluids experience more air resistance and have a lower Vt.

Real-Life Applications

Terminal Velocity has several real-world applications, including:

Skydiving

Skydivers often reach Vt during their freefall. The Vt of a skydiver is around 200 km/h, and it varies depending on various factors such as their body position, the density of the air, and their equipment.

Parachuting

Parachutes work by increasing air resistance, which slows down the descent of the person or objects attached to it. Parachutes are designed to ensure that the TV of the person or object is low enough to land safely.

Base Jumping

Base jumping involves jumping from fixed objects such as buildings, bridges, or cliffs. Base jumpers experience a brief period of freefall before reaching their TV, after which they deploy their parachutes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What happens when an object exceeds its Terminal Velocity?

When an object exceeds its Vt, it experiences an increase in air resistance, which causes it to slow down. In extreme cases, the object may break apart or disintegrate.

2. Can Terminal Velocity be exceeded in a vacuum?

No, it cannot be reached in a vacuum since there is no fluid

3. Can Terminal Velocity be reached by an object moving upwards?

No, it can only be reached by an object falling through a fluid medium. If an object is moving upwards, it will experience less air resistance and will continue to accelerate until it reaches its maximum height.

4. How does the Terminal Velocity of a skydiver change with altitude?

The Vt of a skydiver depends on various factors, including the density of the air. As the altitude increases, the density of the air decreases, which reduces the air resistance and increases the Vt of the skydiver.

5. How does the shape of an object affect its Terminal Velocity?

This is because the shape of an object determines the amount of air resistance that the object experiences. Objects with a streamlined shape experience less air resistance and have a higher Vt than objects with an irregular shape.

6. How is Terminal Velocity different from freefall velocity?

Freefall velocity is the speed at which an object falls through a vacuum, where there is no air resistance. The Vt, on the other hand, is the maximum speed that an object can reach when it falls through a fluid medium, such as air or water.

Conclusion

Terminal Velocity is a fascinating physical phenomenon that has several real-world applications, including skydiving, parachuting, and base jumping. The Vt of an object depends on various factors, including its mass, shape, and the density and viscosity of the fluid medium. By understanding Vt, we can better understand the behaviour of objects falling through a fluid medium.

So, that’s all about Vt. We hope you found this guide informative and useful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

You may also like to read:

What is Velocity in Circular Motion?

Reference:

skydiving