Inelastic Collisions of Two Spheres

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In an elastic collision, both momentum and kinetic energy are conserved. However, in an inelastic collision (where the coefficient of restitution is smaller than 1) only momentum is conserved.

Contributed by: Andrés Santos (August 2008)
Based on a program by: S. M. Blinder
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



Snapshot 1: After a completely inelastic head-on collision both spheres move together.

Snapshot 2: In an elastic collision, the trajectories of two identical spheres in any angular collision are exactly perpendicular.

Snapshot 3: However, if the collision is inelastic the angle between the trajectories is smaller than 90°.

Snapshot 4: Here is the same collision as in snapshot 2, viewed in center-of mass frame.

Snapshot 5: The same collision as in snapshot 3, viewed in center-of mass frame.

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