Collisions may involve many different qualities but momentum is a main aspect of a collision. There are three main types of collisions: elastic collisions, inelastic collisions, and completely inelastic collisions. All collisions involve momentum because momentum is conserved in all collisions. Momentum is also known as mass in motion and a vector. Momentum equals mass times velocity, which is found during a collision. Momentum is an important part during a collision because it determines the outcome of the collision depending on what is involved in the momentum.
Momentum can be seen in many different ways like a moving car or a running child but momentum in a collision deals with two objects of either same mass and different velocities or same velocities with different mass. The law of the conservation of momentum states that unless an outside force acts on an object, its momentum will remain unchanged. The law also applies to the total momentum of two or more objects that collide. The velocity of each of the objects may be different after the collision, but the total momentum will not be changed.
An outside force can change the momentum of a object but the change in momentum depends on the strength of the force and the length of time the force acts” (How Stuff Works). This explains the kinds of collisions that could occur and what momentum does during a collision. The first kind of collision dealing with momentum is an elastic collision. During an elastic collision momentum is conserved and kinetic energy will be conserved as well. This implies that there is no dissipative force acting during the collision and that all of the kinetic energy of the objects before the collision is still in the form of kinetic energy afterward.
Energy is absorbed during an elastic collision when damage is not done meaning the object might become deformed during the collision but will return to its normal state after the collision is over. When a force or some form of momentum is applied to a spring and a collision occurs the spring will be compressed together for a moment but once the collision is over the spring will return to its normal state, proving this is an elastic collision that stores energy. When the masses of the two objects that collide are equal, essentially the momentum will be switched. An example of this type of elastic collision would be pool table balls colliding.
There are many forms of elastic collisions but the main difference of elastic collisions from the rest is that kinetic energy is conserved. The next form of collision dealing with momentum is inelastic collisions. “The forces of interaction in an inelastic collision are non-conservative in nature” (Inelastic Collision). “Inelastic collisions are best known as one in which the kinetic energy is changed to some other form of energy in the collision” (Hyper Physics). These collisions can also been seen as the most ordinary types of collisions, for example a car crash.
If there are only two objects involved in the collision, then the momentum change of the individual objects are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction” (Inelastic Collisions). The total system kinetic energy before the collision equals the total system kinetic energy after the collision. When two cars collide which would be seen as an inelastic collision the momentum from both of the cars combined during the crash would be the same as after the crash, even though the kinetic energy would be different due to it changed into another form of energy.
Inelastic collisions happen when the colliding objects are distorted in some way and usually they change their shape. When the objects change shape during the collision, this is where the kinetic energy goes. Clearly in a car crash a person could see when and where the kinetic energy was transferred due to the change in shape from colliding with another object. “The kinetic energy is what is used to bend the metal and deform the cars” (Types of Collisions). The kinetic energy lost in the collision appears in the form of heat energy, sound energy or light energy.
The last type of collision is completely inelastic collisions where during the collision the objects will stick together and also the maximum possible loss of kinetic energy will happen while still conserving momentum. This is the most extreme case of elastic collisions. “A result from this collision is that there are fewer objects to deal with after the collision” (Perfectly Inelastic Collision). An example of the collision would be football players tackling each other. During the collision the players would tackle each other with their momentum then they stay together and fall as one single mass after the collision.
Momentum is conserved while this collision happens and while kinetic energy is lost. Overall momentum is seen as a constant in all types of collisions. Momentum is never lost and is always conserved. All collisions need momentum in order to happen. During all collisions there are forces, which can cause a change in the momentum. Momentum can describe a whole collision because momentum is mass in motion, which is what a collision can be seen as. Momentum is an important factor when trying to determine a type of collision because a collision depends on the amount of momentum applied during the collision.