Torque - Definition and Relation To Angular Momentum

Definition and Relation To Angular Momentum

A force applied at a right angle to a lever multiplied by its distance from the lever's fulcrum (the length of the lever arm) is its torque. A force of three newtons applied two metres from the fulcrum, for example, exerts the same torque as a force of one newton applied six metres from the fulcrum. The direction of the torque can be determined by using the right hand grip rule: if the fingers of the right hand are curled from the direction of the lever arm to the direction of the force, then the thumb points in the direction of the torque.

More generally, the torque on a particle (which has the position r in some reference frame) can be defined as the cross product:

where r is the particle's position vector relative to the fulcrum, and F is the force acting on the particle. The magnitude τ of the torque is given by

where r is the distance from the axis of rotation to the particle, F is the magnitude of the force applied, and θ is the angle between the position and force vectors. Alternatively,

where F is the amount of force directed perpendicularly to the position of the particle. Any force directed parallel to the particle's position vector does not produce a torque.

It follows from the properties of the cross product that the torque vector is perpendicular to both the position and force vectors. It points along the axis of the rotation that this torque would initiate, starting from rest, and its direction is determined by the right-hand rule.

The unbalanced torque on a body along axis of rotation determines the rate of change of the body's angular momentum,

where L is the angular momentum vector and t is time. If multiple torques are acting on the body, it is instead the net torque which determines the rate of change of the angular momentum:

For rotation about a fixed axis,

where I is the moment of inertia and ω is the angular velocity. It follows that

where α is the angular acceleration of the body, measured in rad/s2. This equation has the limitation that the torque equation is to be only written about instantaneous axis of rotation or center of mass for any type of motion - either motion is pure translation, pure rotation or mixed motion. I = Moment of inertia about point about which torque is written (either about instantaneous axis of rotation or center of mass only). If body is in translatory equilibrium then the torque equation is same about all points in the plane of motion.

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