Designs of Turns on Roller Coasters
Date: Fall 2012
How should turns be banked in a roller coaster to best utilize kinetic energy and normal forces?
The angle of banking on a roller coaster has no effect at all on the
coaster's speed, and therefore no effect on its kinetic energy.
Banking only affects the comfort of the passenger. The ideal banking
angle is that where the outward vector due to centripetal force, is
exactly balanced by the downward vector due to gravity. This can be
tested by having a passenger hold a plumb bob. The ideal banking
angle will result in the plumb bob being at an exact 90 degree angle
with respect to the floor of the coaster. In this situation, the rider will
not feel any side force.
Thanks for the question. This is a common question in physics. I would recommend looking up (in your physics book) the example of what angle of banking is necessary for a car to not slide on the embankment. This will help answer your question. Briefly, one wants to use the normal force to "prop up" the car to prevent it from sliding down the embankment.
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Update: November 2011