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physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of eve ...

physics
, angular acceleration refers to the time rate of change of
angular velocity In physics, angular velocity (\boldsymbol or \boldsymbol), also known as angular frequency vector,(UP1) is a vector measure of rotation rate, that refers to how fast an object rotates or revolves relative to another point, i.e. how fast the angu ...

angular velocity
. As there are two types of angular velocity, namely spin angular velocity and orbital angular velocity, there are naturally also two types of angular acceleration, called spin angular acceleration and orbital angular acceleration respectively. Spin angular acceleration refers to the angular acceleration of a rigid body about its centre of rotation, and orbital angular acceleration refers to the angular acceleration of a point particle about a fixed origin. Angular acceleration is measured in units of angle per unit time squared (which in
SI
SI
units is radians per second squared), and is usually represented by the symbol
alpha Alpha (uppercase , lowercase ; grc, ἄλφα, ''álpha'', modern pronunciation ''álfa'') is the first of the . In the system of , it has a value of 1. It is derived from the letter - an . Letters that arose from alpha include the an ...

alpha
(α). In two dimensions, angular acceleration is a
pseudoscalar In linear algebra, a pseudoscalar is a quantity that behaves like a scalar, except that it changes sign under a parity inversion while a true scalar does not. Any scalar product between a pseudovector and an ordinary vector is a pseudoscalar. ...
whose sign is taken to be positive if the angular speed increases counterclockwise or decreases clockwise, and is taken to be negative if the angular speed increases clockwise or decreases counterclockwise. In three dimensions, angular acceleration is a
pseudovector In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Ph ...

pseudovector
. For rigid bodies, angular acceleration must be caused by a net external
torque In physics and mechanics, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the na ...

torque
. However, this is not so for non-rigid bodies: For example, a figure skater can speed up her rotation (thereby obtaining an angular acceleration) simply by contracting her arms and legs inwards, which involves no ''external'' torque.


Orbital Angular Acceleration of a Point Particle


Particle in two dimensions

In two dimensions, the orbital angular acceleration is the rate at which the two-dimensional orbital angular velocity of the particle about the origin changes. The instantaneous angular velocity ''ω'' at any point in time is given by : \omega = \frac, where r is the distance from the origin and v_ is the cross-radial component of the instantaneous velocity (i.e. the component perpendicular to the position vector), which by convention is positive for counter-clockwise motion and negative for clockwise motion. Therefore, the instantaneous angular acceleration ''α'' of the particle is given by : \alpha = \frac(\frac). Expanding the right-hand-side using the product rule from differential calculus, this becomes : \alpha = \frac\frac - \frac\frac. In the special case where the particle undergoes circular motion about the origin, \frac becomes just the tangential acceleration a_, and \frac vanishes (since the distance from the origin stays constant), so the above equation simplifies to : \alpha = \frac. In two dimensions, angular acceleration is a number with plus or minus sign indicating orientation, but not pointing in a direction. The sign is conventionally taken to be positive if the angular speed increases in the counter-clockwise direction or decreases in the clockwise direction, and the sign is taken negative if the angular speed increases in the clockwise direction or decreases in the counter-clockwise direction. Angular acceleration then may be termed a
pseudoscalar In linear algebra, a pseudoscalar is a quantity that behaves like a scalar, except that it changes sign under a parity inversion while a true scalar does not. Any scalar product between a pseudovector and an ordinary vector is a pseudoscalar. ...
, a numerical quantity which changes sign under a parity inversion, such as inverting one axis or switching the two axes.


Particle in three dimensions

In three dimensions, the orbital angular acceleration is the rate at which three-dimensional orbital angular velocity vector changes with time. The instantaneous angular velocity vector \boldsymbol\omega at any point in time is given by : \boldsymbol\omega =\frac, where \mathbf r is the particle's position vector and \mathbf v is its velocity vector. Therefore, the orbital angular acceleration is the vector \boldsymbol\alpha defined by : \boldsymbol\alpha = \frac(\frac). Expanding this derivative using the product rule for cross-products and the ordinary quotient rule, one gets: : \begin \boldsymbol\alpha &= \frac(\mathbf r\times \frac + \frac\times \mathbf v)-\frac\frac(\mathbf r\times\mathbf v)\\ \\ &= \frac(\mathbf r\times \mathbf a + \mathbf v\times \mathbf v)-\frac\frac(\mathbf r\times\mathbf v)\\ \\ &= \frac-\frac\frac(\mathbf r\times\mathbf v). \end Since \mathbf r\times\mathbf v is just r^2\boldsymbol, the second term may be rewritten as -\frac\frac\boldsymbol. In the case where the distance r of the particle from the origin does not change with time (which includes circular motion as a subcase), the second term vanishes and the above formula simplifies to : \boldsymbol\alpha = \frac. From the above equation, one can recover the cross-radial acceleration in this special case as: : \mathbf_ =\boldsymbol \times\mathbf. Unlike in two dimensions, the angular acceleration in three dimensions need not be associated with a change in angular ''speed'': If the particle's position vector "twists" in space such that its instantaneous plane of angular displacement (i.e. the instantaneous plane in which the position vector sweeps out angle) continuously changes with time, then even if the angular speed (i.e. the speed at which the position vector sweeps out angle) is constant, there will still be a nonzero angular acceleration because the ''direction'' of the angular velocity vector continuously changes with time. This cannot not happen in two dimensions because the position vector is restricted to a fixed plane so that any change in angular velocity must be through a change in its ''magnitude''. The angular acceleration vector is more properly called a
pseudovector In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Ph ...

pseudovector
: It has three components which transform under rotations in the same way as the Cartesian coordinates of a point do, but which under reflections do not transform like Cartesian coordinates.


Relation to Torque

The net ''
torque In physics and mechanics, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the na ...

torque
'' on a point particle is defined to be the pseudovector : \boldsymbol=\mathbf r\times \mathbf F, where \mathbf F is the net force on the particle. Torque is the rotational analogue of force: it induces change in the rotational state of a system, just as force induces change in the translational state of a system. Since the net force on a particle may be connected to the acceleration of the particle by the equation \mathbf F = m\mathbf a, one may hope to construct a similar relation connecting the net torque on a particle to the angular acceleration of the particle. That may be done as follows: First, substituting \mathbf F = m\mathbf a into the above equation for torque, one gets : \boldsymbol=m(\mathbf r\times \mathbf a)=mr^2(\frac). But from the previous section, it was derived that : \boldsymbol=\frac-\frac\frac\boldsymbol, where \boldsymbol is the orbital angular acceleration of the particle and \boldsymbol is the orbital angular velocity of the particle. Therefore, it follows that : \begin \boldsymbol &= mr^2(\boldsymbol+\frac\frac\boldsymbol)\\ \\ &=mr^2\boldsymbol+2mr\frac\boldsymbol. \end In the special case where the distance r of the particle from the origin does not change with time, the second term in the above equation vanishes and the above equation simplifies to : \boldsymbol = mr^2\boldsymbol, which can be interpreted as a "rotational analogue" to \mathbf F = m\mathbf a, where the quantity mr^2 (known as the
moment of inertia The moment of inertia, otherwise known as the mass moment of inertia, angular mass, second moment of mass, or most accurately, rotational inertia, of a rigid body In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its ...

moment of inertia
of the particle) plays the role of the mass m. However, unlike \mathbf F = m\mathbf a, this equation is ''not'' applicable to an arbitrary trajectory. In conclusion, the general relation between torque and angular acceleration is necessarily more complicated than that for force and linear acceleration.


See also

*
Torque In physics and mechanics, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the na ...

Torque
*
Angular momentum In , angular momentum (rarely, moment of momentum or rotational momentum) is the rotational equivalent of . It is an important quantity in physics because it is a —the total angular momentum of a closed system remains constant. In three , the ...

Angular momentum
*
Angular speed Angular frequency ''ω'' (in radians per second), is larger than frequency ''ν'' (in cycles per second, also called Hertz, Hz), by a factor of . This figure uses the symbol ''ν'', rather than ''f'' to denote frequency. In hysics, angular freque ...
* Angular velocity


References

{{Classical mechanics derived SI units Physical quantities Acceleration Rotation Torque Temporal rates