The Parachute Surface Area Effect on the Parachute's Velocity

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How does the surface area of a parachute effect the velocity of the parachute free falling?

Aim: To investigate and explore whether the surface area of the parachute canopy affects its velocity as it free falls; measured by recording the time it takes to travel 2 meters using a stopwatch, then using the data collected to calculate the velocity of the parachute when dropped from 2 meters. This we will be done through testing 5 different surface areas of parachute canopies (5cm

2, 10cm

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2, 15cm

2, 20cm

, 25cm

The height, material of the canopy, the wind speed, the temperature of the air (density of the air) and the mass of the object attached will remain constant throughout the entire experiment in order to get precise results. The surface area of the parachute will change in an increasing pattern according to the first 5 multiples of 5 (5cm

2, 10cm

2, 15cm

2, 20cm

, 25cm

Important assumptions: the stopwatch may give us inaccurate results as it relies on the reaction of the person controlling it. Moreover, an additional force can be applied to the parachute when dropped as the person is letting go of the parachute.

Hypothesis: I think that out of all 5 different surface areas that we will be testing when the surface area is the largest (25cm the velocity of the parachute will be the least. Thus, when the surface area of the parachute canopy is the least (5cm the parachute will have the fastest velocity. This is because in a larger surface area there will be a bigger area for air resistance to be stored within the canopy which will make air resistance the stronger force acting on the parachute and for this reason cause it to go down at a slower constant velocity after reaching terminal velocity. However, when the canopy is smaller, there won’t be enough room for air resistance to be stored and cause gravity to have the stronger force acting on the parachute and cause it to go down at a faster constant velocity after reaching terminal velocity. Scientific Reasoning: Sir Isaac newton was able to formulate three laws relating to the motion of objects. Through his first law he stated that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to keep moving along at a constant speed and in a straight-line path unless interfered with by some external forces.

We can apply this as the person is falling. He/she will continue to move in a straight line (down) at a constant speed until acted upon by a net force (the parachute). Once the parachute is activated, the person is slowed down, because the net force has changed. His second law expressed that the acceleration of a body is directly proportional to the net force acting on it and inversely proportional to its mass. The direction of the acceleration is in the direction of the applied force (Force = mass x acceleration). We can apply this to jumping off of the object. the jumper accelerates downward because of gravity, at a speed depending on his/her mass and how strong gravity is. His third law specified that whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal magnitude but opposite in direction force on the first. We can apply this to the deploy of the parachute. The action is the parachute coming out of the backpack, the reaction being a decrease in velocity.

A parachute is a length of light – weight fabric attached to a heavier object, such as a human body. As gravity works to pull the object towards the Earth, the parachute is opened, releasing the fabric that works against the gravity, slowing it down. The parachute, of course, does not stop gravity. The object eventually reaches the ground. The parachute slows it enough that the object lands much more softly that it would without one. Parachutes reduce gravity to the point that a human body can safely fall from an airplane while using one. When a parachute opens, it is a second force that works against gravity. This is air resistance. Air collects under the fabric parachute, pushing it up as gravity pulls the heavy object attached to it down. This pushing slows the fall of the object by resisting the air under the parachute. Air resistance is a non-conservative force, in that the work it does is dependent on the downward motion of the heavy object pulled by gravity toward the Earth.

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