Rolling Friction Review

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Rolling Friction Review

When a body rolls on a surface, the force resisting the motion is termed rolling friction or rolling resistance. Experience shows that much less force is required to roll an object than to slide or drag it. Because force is required to initiate and maintain rolling motion, there must be a definite but small amount of friction involved. Unlike the coefficient of sliding friction, the coefficient of rolling friction varies with conditions and has a dimension expressed in units of length.

Ideally, a rolling sphere or cylinder will make contact with a flat surface at a single point or along a line (in the case of a cylinder). In reality, the area of contact is slightly larger than a point or line due to elastic deformation of either the rolling object or the flat surface, or both. Much of the friction is attributed to elastic hysteresis. A perfectly elastic object will spring back immediately after relaxation of the deformation. In reality, a small but definite amount of time is required to restore the object to original shape. As a result, energy is not entirely returned to the object or surface but is retained and converted to heat. The source of this energy is, in part, the rolling frictional force.

A certain amount of slippage (which is the equivalent of sliding friction) occurs in rolling friction. If the friction of an unhoused rolling object is measured, slippage effects are minimal. However, in practical applications such as a housed ball or roller bearing, slippage occurs and contributes to rolling friction. Neglecting slippage, rolling friction is very small compared to sliding friction.

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