1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Electric Potential Energy & Electric Potential

  1. Apr 16, 2015 #1
    Two frictionless pucks are placed on a level surface, as shown, at an initial distance of 20 m. The mass of puck 1 is 0.80 kg and it has a charge of +3.0 x 10^-4 C, while puck 2 is 0.40 kg with a charge of +3.0 x 10^-4 C. The initial velocity of puck 1 is 12 m/s [E] and the initial velocity of puck 2 is 8 m/s [W]. Find the minimum separation of the two pucks (the minimum distance between the pucks).

    Attempt at the solution:
    Let right be positive
    Kq1q2/r = 0.5 -m1v1^2 + m2v2^2
    9 x 10^9 Nm^2/C^2(3 x 10 ^-4 C) ( 3 x 10^-4 C) /r = 0.5(-0.80)(-12)^2 + (0.40)(8)^2
    810Nm^2 / r = 70.4 kgm^2/s^2
    r = 11.51m
    20 - 11.51 = 8.50m

    Is this right?

    Attached Files:

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2015 #2
    They have PE in both states: initial and final.
    And the way you write it, seems that you have 1/2 only for one of the kinetic energies.
  4. Apr 16, 2015 #3
    .5 (0.80) (12)^2 = 57.6, .5(0.40)(8)^2 = 12.8
    57.6 + 12.8 = 70.4 same results
  5. Apr 16, 2015 #4
    I don't know what these numbers mean.
    But the conservation of energy is missing the initial PE.
    Write the equations first and then start with the numbers.

    How can be 70 m when they approach each other from 20 m?
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  6. Jul 13, 2015 #5
    Not to take away from the OP's questions but I'm on this question as we speak; If we use the conservation of momentum, wouldn't the two pucks final velocity be equal to zero at the closest point? Since like charges repel, would their closest point of contact not be when all the energy is in the form of electric potential energy; i.e. v2f=0? so wouldn't the equation to solve this just be:
    1/2m1v1o+1/2m2v2o+kq1q2/ro =0+kq1q2/rf?
  7. Jul 13, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Their speeds would be maximum but, throughout the process, the total Momentum would be the same as at the start. When they are very close, the value of the Potential will be governed by their actual radii, so the question is not fully specified.
    It's because he hasn't used parentheses properly in the first formula. Not such a problem when one's using a pencil and paper. AS nasu says, it's best to stick wih the algebra right up until the end and then stick in the numbers. The pattern of the symbols makes it easier to spot mistakes.
  8. Jul 13, 2015 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    The first half of my previous post was nonsense, of course. But the bit about algebra was right.
    Their relative velocity would, of course, be zero at their nearest approach so, why not work in the frame of the CM and give them velocities of half the difference? Then you only need to work with one ball and use KE = PE to give the distance from each stationary ball to their CM. Doing it that way will reduce the possibility of mechanical errors.
  9. Jul 13, 2015 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    As a homework question, this should have gone into the homework forums. Anyone else that wants help should start a new thread there (And use the template provided therein).
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook