Factors Affecting Friction

Based on what students have already learned about friction, they formulate hypotheses concerning the effects of weight and contact area on the amount of friction between two surfaces. In the associated activities (Does Weight Matter? and Does Area Matter?), students design and conduct simple experiments to test their hypotheses, using procedures similar to those used in the previous lesson (Discovering Friction). Their data analyses reveal the importance of weight to normal friction (the friction that occurs as a result of surface roughness) and the importance of surface area to the friction that occurs between smooth surfaces due to molecular attraction. Students also use their data to calculate coefficients of friction for the tested materials and compare these to published values for various materials.