# Energy of block hitting a spring

1. Nov 20, 2013

### Kot

1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
A block released from height h hits a spring with constant k, the box compresses the spring a distance x then returns to the same height.

Find the maximum speed of the block.

2. Relevant equations
K=1/2mv2
U=mgh

3. The attempt at a solution
This solution was provided by my professor but I have a couple of questions about it.

The equilibrium point is Sequ =mg/k
so this is where potential energy is it's lowest and kinetic energy is at it's highest.

1/2mvmax2=mg(h+Sequ) - 1/2k(Sequ)2

mg(h+mg/k) - 1/2k (mg/k)2

1/2 mvmax2 = mgh + 1/2 (mg/k)2/k

vmax2 = 2gh + (m/k)g2

vmax = √(2gh + (m/k)g2)

I am confused as to why my professor set Sequ equal to mg/k. Did this come from Fspring = kx? Could someone explain this to me?

2. Nov 20, 2013

### Tanya Sharma

Hi Kot...

The block accelerates in the downward direction till it reaches the equilibrium position.After that it decelerates ,till its speed becomes zero(the spring achieves maximum compression) .At the equilibrium position the net force on the block in vertical direction is zero .

Now,the forces are mg downwards and kx(spring force) upwards.So mg-kx=0 or x=mg/k where x is the equilibrium position.

3. Nov 20, 2013

### Kot

I see, so for 1/2mvmax2=mg(h+Sequ) - 1/2k(Sequ)2

The left hand side is the kinetic energy of the block, the right hand side is the potential energy of the block and the spring? Since the spring is compressed there is potential energy stored in it but why is it subtracted from the potential energy of the block?

4. Nov 20, 2013

### Tanya Sharma

Using energy conservation,

Loss in potential energy of the block = Gain in kinetic energy of the block + Gain in potential energy of the spring.

mg(h+Sequ) = 1/2mvmax2 + 1/2k(Sequ)2

Rearranging,1/2mvmax2=mg(h+Sequ) - 1/2k(Sequ)2

which is what your professor has done.

5. Nov 20, 2013

### Kot

If there were no spring, then the conservation of energy would mean that: loss in potential energy of the block = Gain in kinetic energy of the block, correct?

6. Nov 20, 2013

### Tanya Sharma

Correct

Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
7. Nov 21, 2013

### Kot

Wait a minute, how can I tell that mg(h+Sequ) is loss in potential energy instead of gain and the other terms are gain in kinetic and potential energy? Is there a way to determine this?

8. Nov 21, 2013

### Tanya Sharma

When an object is lifted up from ground to an elevated position ,does the potential energy increase or decrease ?

9. Nov 21, 2013

### Kot

Lifting an object increases it's potential energy since the height increased. So since the distance of the block is h+Sequ the distance is actually lower thus resulting in loss of potential energy?

Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
10. Nov 21, 2013

### Tanya Sharma

PE = mgh where h is the height from the reference point .As the object moves up ,PE increases.As it goes down PE decreases.

11. Nov 21, 2013

### Kot

If h is the distance from a reference point and we add Sequ then that means the height would have increased, and potential energy would have increased... I'm confused :(

12. Nov 21, 2013

### Tanya Sharma

Reference point means h=0(or PE=0).

If you consider equilibrium position to be the reference point i.e measure distances from the equilibrium point ,then the block is initially at height h+mg/k or has PE mg(h+mg/k) .

Now when the block falls down and reaches the equilibrium position(PE=0) ,all this stored PE converts into the Kinetic energy of the block + elastic potential energy of the spring .

Does this help?

13. Nov 21, 2013

### Kot

Yes! Thank you for explaining this to me :)