In an elastic collision, the total momentum of the colliding objects is conserved, and the kinetic energy is also preserved. This principle allows us to determine the final velocities and momenta of the objects involved in the collision. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to find momentum in elastic collisions.
Understanding Elastic Collisions
An elastic collision is a type of collision where the total kinetic energy of the colliding objects is conserved. This means that the sum of the kinetic energies before the collision is equal to the sum of the kinetic energies after the collision. In an elastic collision, the objects do not deform or lose any energy due to friction or heat.
The conservation of momentum and kinetic energy in an elastic collision can be expressed mathematically as follows:
 Conservation of Momentum:
 m_A * u_A + m_B * u_B = m_A * v_A + m_B * v_B

Where:
 m_A and m_B are the masses of the colliding objects A and B, respectively.
 u_A and u_B are the initial velocities of objects A and B, respectively.
 v_A and v_B are the final velocities of objects A and B, respectively.

Conservation of Kinetic Energy:
 1/2 * m_A * u_A^2 + 1/2 * m_B * u_B^2 = 1/2 * m_A * v_A^2 + 1/2 * m_B * v_B^2
By solving these two equations simultaneously, we can determine the final velocities v_A and v_B, and subsequently, the final momenta of the colliding objects.
Solving for Final Velocities and Momenta
To find the final velocities and momenta in an elastic collision, follow these steps:
 Identify the initial velocities (u_A and u_B) and masses (m_A and m_B) of the colliding objects.
 Write the equations for the conservation of momentum and kinetic energy, as shown above.
 Solve the system of equations to find the final velocities v_A and v_B.
 Calculate the final momenta using the formula: p = m * v, where p is the momentum, m is the mass, and v is the velocity.
Here’s an example to illustrate the process:
Consider a headon elastic collision between two trolleys, A and B, with the following initial conditions:
– Mass of trolley A (m_A) = 2 kg
– Mass of trolley B (m_B) = 1 kg
– Initial velocity of trolley A (u_A) = 10 m/s
– Initial velocity of trolley B (u_B) = 5 m/s
Applying the conservation of momentum and kinetic energy equations, we can solve for the final velocities:
v_A = (m_A – m_B) / (m_A + m_B) * u_A + 2 * m_B / (m_A + m_B) * u_B
v_B = 2 * m_A / (m_A + m_B) * u_A + (m_B – m_A) / (m_A + m_B) * u_B
Substituting the given values, we get:
v_A = 15 m/s
v_B = 2.5 m/s
Now, we can calculate the final momenta:
p_A = m_A * v_A = 2 kg * 15 m/s = 30 kg·m/s
p_B = m_B * v_B = 1 kg * 2.5 m/s = 2.5 kg·m/s
Note that the total momentum before the collision (m_A * u_A + m_B * u_B = 20 kg·m/s) is equal to the total momentum after the collision (m_A * v_A + m_B * v_B = 27.5 kg·m/s), as expected in an elastic collision.
Approximating Elastic Collisions
In practice, it is often useful to approximate a collision as perfectly elastic, even if it is not, because the requirement of kinetic energy conservation provides an additional constraint to the equations of motion, allowing us to solve problems with too many unknowns. The solution will often be quite adequate because the collision is “close enough” to perfectly elastic.
For example, in a badminton serve, the collision between the racket and the shuttle can be approximated as an elastic collision. If the speed of the racket is measured as 20 m/s, and the mass of the racket is much larger than the shuttle, we can expect the speed of the shuttle to be around twice the speed of the racket, or 40 m/s.
Factors Affecting Momentum in Elastic Collisions
Several factors can influence the momentum in an elastic collision:

Masses of the Colliding Objects: The masses of the colliding objects (m_A and m_B) directly affect the final velocities and momenta. Heavier objects will have a greater influence on the final outcome.

Initial Velocities: The initial velocities (u_A and u_B) of the colliding objects determine the initial momenta and kinetic energies, which are then conserved in the collision.

Angle of Collision: In the case of oblique collisions (where the objects collide at an angle), the conservation of momentum and kinetic energy equations become more complex, but the principles still apply.

Deformation and Energy Losses: In realworld scenarios, some energy may be lost due to deformation or other factors, making the collision less than perfectly elastic. However, the approximation of an elastic collision can still provide a good estimate of the final momenta.
Practical Applications and Examples
Elastic collisions are observed in various physical phenomena and have numerous practical applications, such as:

Particle Accelerators: In particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), highenergy particles collide in an almost perfectly elastic manner, allowing researchers to study the fundamental properties of matter.

Billiards and Pool: The collisions between billiard balls can be approximated as elastic, enabling players to predict the trajectories of the balls and develop strategies for the game.

Robotics and Automation: In robotic systems, elastic collisions are often used to model the interactions between moving parts, allowing for more precise control and coordination.

Sports and Recreational Activities: Elastic collisions are observed in various sports, such as tennis, badminton, and table tennis, where the collision between the racket and the ball or shuttle can be approximated as elastic.
By understanding the principles of elastic collisions and the factors that influence momentum, physicists, engineers, and researchers can better analyze and predict the behavior of systems involving colliding objects, leading to advancements in various fields.
Conclusion
Mastering the concept of finding momentum in elastic collisions is crucial for understanding the fundamental principles of physics and their practical applications. By applying the conservation of momentum and kinetic energy, you can solve complex problems involving colliding objects and gain valuable insights into the behavior of physical systems. This comprehensive guide has provided you with the necessary tools and knowledge to tackle elastic collision problems with confidence.
References
 Khan Academy, “How to use the shortcut for solving elastic collisions”
https://www.khanacademy.org/science/physics/linearmomentum/elasticandinelasticcollisions/v/howtousetheshortcutforsolvingelasticcollisions  Khan Academy, “What are elastic and inelastic collisions?”
https://www.khanacademy.org/science/physics/linearmomentum/elasticandinelasticcollisions/a/whatareelasticandinelasticcollisions  Quizlet, “Momentum Flashcards”
https://quizlet.com/612866243/momentumflashcards/
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