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Problems Caused by Friction

by Ron Kurtus (20 May 2016)

A number of problems can be caused by friction between two objects or materials. Since friction is a resistive force that slows down or prevents motion, it can be a nuisance, because it can hinder motion and cause the need for expending extra energy.

Friction can also cause parts in contact to heat up and can cause parts in contact to wear out.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion



Extra energy needed

The force to move an object must include the force required to overcome the resistance from friction. As friction increases, so too must the force and the energy required to move the object increase.

In any type of vehicle—such as a car, boat or airplane—excess friction means that extra fuel must be used to power the vehicle. In other words, fuel or energy is being wasted because of the friction.

Fluid friction or air resistance can greatly reduce the gas mileage in an automobile. Cars are streamlined to reduce friction. However, driving at highway speeds with your windows open can create enough drag on the car to greatly lower your gas mileage.

Can heat up parts

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that the amount of energy remains constant. Thus, the energy that is "lost" to friction in trying to move an object is really turned to heat energy. The friction of parts rubbing together creates heat.

You've seen how people will try to start a fire by vigorously rubbing two sticks together. Or perhaps you've seen an automobile spin its wheels so much that the tires start to smoke. These are examples of friction creating heat energy. Just rub your hands together to create the same effect.

Besides the problem of losing energy to heat, there is also the threat of a part overheating due to friction. This can cause damage to a machine.

Can cause wear

Any device that has moving parts can wear out rapidly due to friction. Lubrication is used not only to allow parts to move easier but also to prevent them from wearing out.

Some examples of materials wearing out due to friction include automobile ties, the soles of your shoes, a pencil eraser, as well as machinery.

With friction caused by molecular adhesion, wear is caused when molecules get torn loose from a material. With surface roughness, small objects may get torn loose from the surface. When friction is caused by deformations in a material, the frequent changes on shape can affect the materials.

Summary

Friction can result in an extra force needed to move an object. This means more energy is required. It can also cause parts in contact to heat up and even wear out.


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