# Find min/max accel. for block to stay on wedge (static fric)

• Lost1ne
In summary, I struggled thinking about parts b and c, and saw the solutions for parts b and c, but still don't exactly get it. I'll state the questions below, and tell you my way of interpreting the solution now. Could you tell me where my thinking goes wrong?1. Homework Statement A block rests on a wedge inclined at angle θ (this angle is with respect to the horizontal). The coefficient of friction between the block and plane is μ.2. My attempts/interpretations of the solution:Please correct me where I'm wrong.
Lost1ne
This HW problem due date has already passed. I had no problem with part a, but struggled thinking about parts b and c. I saw the solutions for parts b and c, but still don't exactly get it. I'll state the questions below, and tell you my way of interpreting the solution now. Could you tell me where my thinking goes wrong?

1. Homework Statement

A block rests on a wedge inclined at angle θ (this angle is with respect to the horizontal). The coefficient of friction between the block and plane is μ. a) Find the maximum value of θ for the block to remain motionless on the wedge when the wedge is fixed in position. b) The wedge is given a horizontal acceleration a. Assuming that tan θ > μ, find the minimum acceleration for the block to remain on the wedge without sliding. c) Repeat part (b), but find the maximum value of the acceleration.

2. My attempts/interpretations of the solution: Please correct me where I'm wrong

Part A: It is best to attack part a with a rotated coordinate system where x' may become our parallel axis and y' our perpendicular axis. As we increase theta, we find that our normal force decreases in magnitude, weakening the magnitude of the force of static friction that depends on the normal force magnitude. If we're concerned with finding how far we can increase this angle while allowing the block to stay at rest, we'll looking for the point where the static friction force reaches its maximum value and still can just counter the downward, parallel component of gravity.

Carrying out the appropriate math, we obtain tan(theta_max) = μ, resulting in theta_max = arctan(μ)

Parts B and C: Okay, so we're told that tan(theta) > μ, meaning that theta > arctan(μ) and that theta > theta_max: we're exceeded our angle limit and this block is going to slide down if nothing is done. With the force of static friction only depending on the the coefficient of static friction, μ, which is not going to change, and the magnitude of our normal force, our only hope to keep the block stationary is to accelerate the wedge rightwards (the diagram is oriented such that the right-angle of the wedge makes a correctly oriented letter "L") so that an increased normal force may be supplied to the block, increasing the magnitude of the static friction force accordingly.

In this case though, we are tasked with finding the minimum and maximum accelerations to be applied to the wedge for this block at such an angle to stay on the edge without sliding. The component of the normal force in the x-direction acting on the block will allow for it to accelerate uniformly with the wedge, so we may use a_min and a_max in our equations for the blocks x and y motion.

Looking at the answers, I see that the minimum acceleration case illustrates the force of static friction going upwards, parallel to the incline. Well, okay. We know that we must accelerate this system so that the normal force is of a greater magnitude so that the force of static friction is strong enough to prevent this block from slipping. Well, to counter the downwards, parallel component of gravity, it makes sense to have the force of static friction point up the plane. Now we must write out our equations for the net forces acting on the block in the x & y directions (with x-comp of N being Nsin(theta) and the y-comp being Ncos(theta)), acknowledging that the y-acceleration must be zero. We also take fstatic to = fstatic_max in our calculations, as we're already at an angle that requires this to be true. The math seems straightforward for there: a_min = g*([tanθ-μ]/[1+μtanθ]).

However, the maximum acceleration case illustrates the force of static friction going downwards, parallel to the incline. Why is this the case? I just don't get the intuition for that case. So if the force of static friction were to point downwards, it would have an x-component contributing to the rightwards acceleration of the block. If this were to happen, will a now be maxed (rather than with the f_static_x comp going opposite the direction of acceleration a)? Because we do the rest of our math assuming that the vertical acceleration of the block is zero (Ncosθ = f_static_vertical + mg_vertical), does this allow for us to now accept that the acceleration is maxed (with f_static now even contributing to that rightwards acceleration) and that the block is not slipping (because there is no vertical acceleration)?

Is this because, no matter what acceleration a we give the system, it can always be higher and reach its a_max if we allow the x-component of static friction to be in the same direction of that acceleration, meaning that we make f_static downwards/parallel (and a similar logic for the minimum acceleration)? After taking care of that, is the non-slipping condition then handled by just forcing the vertical acceleration of the block to be zero (i.e., net_force_vert equals zero)?

Last edited:
Lost1ne said:
our only hope to keep the block stationary is to accelerate the wedge rightwards ... so that an increased normal force may be supplied to the block, increasing the magnitude of the static friction force accordingly.
There's a bit more to it. Without the wedge's acceleration, the block's acceleration would have a horizontal component. Accelerating the wedge allows the block to have some horizontal acceleration without slipping, so the frictional force does not need to be as great.
Specifically, Ffric=m(g sin(θ) - a cos(θ)).
Lost1ne said:
the maximum acceleration case illustrates the force of static friction going downwards, parallel to the incline. Why is this the case?
Because if the wedge accelerates too fast the block may slide up the wedge, and friction acts to oppose relative motion of the surfaces in contact.

## What is the definition of "static friction"?

Static friction is the force that prevents two stationary surfaces from moving against each other when they are in contact.

## Why is it important to find the minimum and maximum acceleration for a block to stay on a wedge?

Knowing the minimum and maximum acceleration for a block to stay on a wedge is important because it allows us to determine the range of accelerations that will keep the block from slipping. This information is useful for designing structures and machines that need to maintain stability.

## What factors affect the minimum and maximum acceleration for a block to stay on a wedge?

The coefficient of static friction between the surfaces, the angle of the wedge, and the mass of the block are all factors that can affect the minimum and maximum acceleration for the block to stay on the wedge. Additionally, the surface roughness and any external forces acting on the block can also play a role.

## How can the coefficient of static friction be determined?

The coefficient of static friction can be determined experimentally by measuring the force required to keep an object stationary on a surface and dividing it by the normal force between the two surfaces. It can also be calculated using the equation μ = F/N, where μ is the coefficient of static friction, F is the maximum frictional force, and N is the normal force.

## Can the minimum and maximum acceleration for a block to stay on a wedge be calculated mathematically?

Yes, the minimum and maximum acceleration for a block to stay on a wedge can be calculated using the coefficient of static friction and the angle of the wedge. By setting the sum of the forces in the horizontal direction equal to the maximum frictional force and solving for acceleration, we can determine the minimum and maximum values that will keep the block from slipping.

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