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Uses of Friction

by Ron Kurtus (revised 18 July 2016)

Although you normally hear about trying to reduce or eliminate friction, it actually has some important uses.

Since friction is a resistance force that slows down or prevents motion, it is necessary in many applications where you might want to hold items or do things and prevent slipping or sliding. In those cases, there is an advantage of having friction.

Quite often uses of friction can be seen from how things would be without friction. If there was no friction, you would not be able to walk, drive a car, or hold objects. Pens and pencils would not work.

Friction is also necessary to stop a car or bike through the use of brakes.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion



Walking

You could not walk without the friction between your shoes and the ground. As you try to step forward, you push your foot backward. Friction holds your shoe to the ground, allowing you to walk. Consider how difficult it is to walk on slippery ice, where there is little friction.

Bear did not heed warning sign

Bear did not heed warning sign

Writing

Writing with a pencil requires friction. You could not hold a pencil in your hand without friction. It would slip out when you tried to hold it to write. The graphite pencil led would not make a mark on the paper without friction.

A pencil eraser uses friction to rub off mistakes written in pencil lead. Rubbing the eraser on the lead wears out the eraser due to friction, while the particles worn off gather up the pencil lead from the paper.

Driving a car or riding a bicycle

Your car would not start moving if it wasn't for the friction of the tires against the street. With no friction, the tires would just spin.

Likewise, you could not stop without the friction of the brakes and the tires.

Summary

Friction is necessary in many applications to prevent slipping or sliding.


Observe little things around you


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Friction Resources - Extensive list

Books

Top-rated books on Friction Science

Top-rated books on Friction Experiments


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