Conservation of Momentum

Product Code: EX-5510C


Product Summary

The total momentum and total energy of carts undergoing elastic and inelastic collisions are measured. The values before and after the collisions are compared to verify that momentum is conserved in all collisions, while energy is only conserved in elastic collisions.

Elastic and inelastic collisions are performed with two dynamics carts of different masses. Magnetic bumpers are used in the elastic collision and Velcro bumpers are used in the completely inelastic collision. In both cases, momentum is conserved.

Cart velocities are recorded using the encoders inside the Smart Carts. A real-time graph of Velocity vs. Time is obtained for each cart, clearly showing when the collision occurred. This enables the student to determine the cart velocities immediately before and after the collision.

The kinetic energy before and after the collision is also studied. Kinetic energy is not conserved for inelastic collisions. It is also demonstrated that kinetic energy momentarily decreases during the elastic collision and then returns to the original value after the collision.

PASCO Advantage: The magnitude and direction of the velocity of each cart is recorded continuously throughout the collision, which eliminates the problem in older methods of positioning photogates too close or too far from the point of collision.


  • Designed for use with 2 Smart Carts


  • Conservation of momentum in elastic and inelastic collisions
  • Kinetic energy not conserved in inelastic collisions
  • Kinetic energy temporarily stored as magnetic potential energy during elastic collisions using magnetic bumpers

What’s Included

Software Required

This product requires PASCO software for data collection and analysis. We recommend the following option(s). For more information on which is right for your classroom, see our Software Comparison: SPARKvue vs. Capstone »

Interface Required

This product requires a PASCO Interface to connect to your computer or device. We recommend the following option(s). For a breakdown of features, capabilities, and additional options, see our Interface Comparison Guide »


Support Documents