Chapter 24 : Kinetic Energy of a Rolling Body - Diploma In Mechanical Engineering - Student's Corner


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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Chapter 24 : Kinetic Energy of a Rolling Body - Diploma In Mechanical Engineering


Chapter 24 : Kinetic Energy of a Rolling Body



The kinetic energy of an object is a fundamental concept in physics, representing the energy associated with its motion. When dealing with rolling bodies, such as wheels or cylinders, a unique combination of translational and rotational motion comes into play. Understanding the kinetic energy of a rolling body involves considering both linear and angular components, providing insights into the energy distribution and dynamics of the rolling object.


Translational Kinetic Energy


The translational kinetic energy (KEtrans) of any object, including a rolling body, is given by the classical kinetic energy formula:



  • m is the mass of the object,
  • v is its linear velocity.

This component represents the energy associated with the object's center of mass moving through space.


Rotational Kinetic Energy


For a rolling body, there is an additional contribution to kinetic energy due to its rotational motion. The rotational kinetic energy (KErot) is given by:



  • I is the moment of inertia of the object,
  • ω is its angular velocity.

This component represents the energy associated with the object's rotation about its own axis.


Rolling Motion

Combined Motion

When a body rolls without slipping, its translational and rotational motions are coordinated. For a wheel or cylinder of radius RR, the linear velocity (vv) and angular velocity (ω) are related by:


This relationship ensures that the body rolls without sliding or skidding, maintaining contact with the surface.


Total Kinetic Energy

The total kinetic energy (KEtotal) of a rolling body is the sum of its translational and rotational kinetic energies:


Substituting the expressions for KEtrans and KErot:



Moment of Inertia for Rolling Bodies

Moment of Inertia

The moment of inertia (II) depends on the body's shape and mass distribution. For common rolling objects like cylinders and disks, the moments of inertia are:

  • Cylinder about Its Axis: Icylinder=(1/2)mR2
  • Disk about Its Axis: Idisk=(1/2)mR2


Kinetic Energy for Common Rolling Bodies

Applying the moments of inertia to the kinetic energy formula, the kinetic energy of a rolling body can be expressed based on its shape:

  • Cylinder Rolling Down an Incline: KEcylinder=1/4mv2
  • Disk Rolling Down an Incline: KEdisk=1/2mv2

These formulas highlight how the distribution of mass influences the kinetic energy of a rolling body.

Work-Energy Theorem for Rolling Bodies

Work Done

When a rolling body moves down an incline, work is done against gravitational forces. The work done (W) is equal to the change in kinetic energy (KEtotal):


For a rolling body, the work done can be expressed as:


This work is shared between the translational and rotational components of kinetic energy.

Practical Applications


Automotive Engineering

Understanding the kinetic energy of rolling bodies is crucial in automotive engineering. The design of wheels and tires involves considerations of mass distribution and moments of inertia to optimize energy efficiency and handling characteristics.


Amusement Park Rides

Rolling motion is central to the functioning of various amusement park rides. Roller coasters, for example, rely on the kinetic energy of the rolling cars to navigate twists, turns, and hills. Engineers carefully calculate and design these rides to ensure a thrilling yet safe experience.



The kinetic energy of a rolling body is a composite of both translational and rotational components. The interplay between linear and angular motion, governed by the principles of conservation of energy and the mechanics of rolling without slipping, leads to unique expressions for kinetic energy. Recognizing and applying these principles are essential for a range of applications, from the design of everyday transportation to the creation of thrilling amusement park rides. This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the kinetic energy of rolling bodies, offering insights into the physics that govern their motion and energy distribution.Top of Form

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