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Centripetal and Centrifugal Force - Physics

Force is necessary in order to move an object or a body from one position to another. Force can act in a varied way on bodies depending on its motion type. In curvilinear motion, there are two different forces that can be taken. One is centripetal force and the other one is centrifugal force. When a force acts towards the center of the circular path, then this force can be termed as centripetal force, whereas centrifugal force is a force that is found out to be acting in direction which is pointing away from the center point. In this article, we will see about centripetal and centrifugal force in a very detailed manner.

Centripetal force


Centripetal force is the element of force which acts on a body in a curvilinear motion which is found to be directed towards the center of the curvature. We can represent centripetal force in Newton. This force always acts perpendicular to the direction in which an object’s displacement is present. If an object can be accelerated based on the changes in velocity, then it is possible that either its direction or speed changes. In other words, the body is found to be constantly accelerating if it seems to be changing its circular path in a constant manner. Centripetal force is based on Newton’s second law of motion.

Calculating centripetal force

Centripetal force can be calculated by multiplying the mass with the square of tangential velocity divided by radius of the circular path. The centripetal force can be quadrupled by doubling the tangential velocity. So, the mathematical formula for centripetal force can be expressed as,

central and centrifugal force


F = Centripetal force

ac = centripetal acceleration

m = mass of the object

v = velocity (or speed) of the object

r = radius of the object

Real time examples of centripetal force

In real life, we can experience this force in a wide range of situations. Some of them are mentioned below,

  • Turning a car or any automobile
  • Going on a roller coaster while experiencing loops
  • Spinning a ball using a string
  • Orbiting motion of planets around the sun in the solar system

Centrifugal force

A centrifugal force is a force which acts outwards to an object that moves in a circular path. This force is also dependent on the object’s mass, speed of rotation of the object as well as the distance from the center. In case if the object is found to have more mass, then the force and speed will be greater as well. The movement will be slightly higher if the object is placed far from the center point.


When a force arises from the inertia of the body and is found to be acting on the body which is in a circular motion that can be directed outwards from the circle’s center around the moving object, then this force is termed as centrifugal force. The unit of centrifugal force is Newton.

Calculation of centrifugal force

Centrifugal force of any object can be obtained by dividing the negative product of mass and the square of its tangential velocity by its radius. Doubling of tangential velocity will make the force quadrupled. The mathematical formula of centrifugal force can be expressed as,

Centripetal And Centrifugal Force


Fc = Centrifugal force

m = mass of the object

v = velocity (speed) of the moving object

r = radius of the object

Real time examples of centrifugal force

Centrifugal forces can be seen on everybody moving around a circular path. The following are some of the real-life examples and applications of centrifugal force -

  • Equatorial railway
  • A bike or car making a turn
  • Weight of the object on the equator and at the poles
  • Vehicles while driving through a curve

Centripetal Force vs Centrifugal Force

The following are some of the basic differences between centripetal force and centrifugal force,

Centripetal Force Centrifugal Force
Centripetal force is attained when a body travels at a constant speed along a circular path. Centrifugal force can be attained when a body moves in a circular path and experiences an outward force.
It occurs in a body that contains a specific direction along the circle’s center from the body which approaches the center. It occurs in a body which contains direction along the center of the circle from the center which approaches the body.
Example: A planet is being orbited by its satellite. Example: Mud flying out of a tire.
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