Leverage - The Law of The Lever

The Law of The Lever

The lever is a movable bar that pivots on a fulcrum attached to or positioned on or across a fixed point. The lever operates by applying forces at different distances from the fulcrum, or pivot.

As the lever pivots on the fulcrum, points farther from this pivot move faster than points closer to the pivot. The power into and out of the lever must be the same, so forces applied to points farther from the pivot must be less than when applied to points closer in.

If a and b are distances from the fulcrum to points A and B and if force FA applied to A is the input force and FB exerted at B is the output, the ratio of the velocities of points A and B is given by a/b, so the ratio of the output force to the input force, or mechanical advantage, is given by

This is the law of the lever, which was proven by Archimedes using geometric reasoning. It shows that if the distance a from the fulcrum to where the input force is applied (point A) is greater than the distance b from fulcrum to where the output force is applied (point B), then the lever amplifies the input force. If the distance from the fulcrum to the input force is less than from the fulcrum to the output force, then the lever reduces the input force. Recognizing the profound implications and practicalities of the law of the lever, Archimedes has been famously attributed with the quotation "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world."

The use of velocity in the static analysis of a lever is an application of the principle of virtual work.