Difference Between Centrifugal And Centripetal Forces [PDF]

In this article, I shall tell you about the difference between centrifugal and centripetal forces. A PDF is also shared at the end.

What is Centrifugal Force

Centrifugal force is a fictitious yet useful concept in physics, experienced by a particle in circular motion. It mirrors the centripetal force that maintains the particle’s circular path but acts in the opposite direction. Consider a stone on a string whirling horizontally: the tension in the string serves as the centripetal force, directing the stone toward the post. If the string breaks, the stone moves tangentially due to inertia, not outward as it would if centrifugal force were real.

Though not recognized by Newton’s laws as a genuine force, the centrifugal force concept proves valuable, especially in analyzing fluid behavior in rotating containers like cream separators. In such rotating frames, an inertial force, the fictitious centrifugal force, is included to apply Newton’s laws.

Alterations in centrifugal force involve changing rotation speed, body mass, or radius. Speed adjustments have a squared impact, while mass and radius changes exhibit direct or inverse proportion effects. Laboratories employ centrifuges to generate centrifugal fields exceeding 1,000,000,000g. This concept simplifies complex analyses, providing a practical framework for understanding motion in rotating systems.

What is Centrifugal Force
Centrifugal Force Example
Centrifugal Force Diagram
Centrifugal Force Example

What is Centripetal Force

Centripetal force, in simple terms, is the force that acts on an object in curved motion, directing it toward the axis of rotation or center of curvature. It is measured in newtons and is always perpendicular to the object’s displacement direction. According to Newton’s second law, the centripetal force acting on an object in a circular path is directed towards the center of the circle.

To calculate centripetal force, you can use the formula:


where F is the centripetal force, m is the object’s mass, v is its speed or velocity, and r is the radius.

In daily life, centripetal force is evident when spinning a ball on a string, turning a car, or experiencing the force of gravity in planetary orbits. Whether it’s tension in a rope, friction between wheels and the ground, or gravity’s pull, centripetal force is responsible for maintaining objects in circular or angular motion.

What is Centripetal Force
Centripetal Force Example
Centripetal Force Diagram
Centripetal Force Example

Difference Between Centrifugal And Centripetal Forces

Let’s see the Difference Between Centrifugal And Centripetal Forces in the table below

AspectCentripetal ForceCentrifugal Force
DirectionActual force is required for circular motion, as per Newton’s laws.Perceived outward force, appearing to push objects away from the center of rotation.
NatureFictitious force, is not recognized in Newtonian mechanics.Not a true force; a perceived effect resulting from inertia in circular motion.
ExistencePhysically real and measurable.Fictitious force is not recognized in Newtonian mechanics.
CauseCaused by tension, gravity, or other real forces.Result of inertia, not caused by a direct force.
EffectMaintains objects in circular paths.Perceived outward force due to inertia.
Reference FrameDefined within the object’s rotating frame.Perceived in a non-inertial frame, like the rotating object itself.
Mathematical ExpressionInward force is directed toward the center of rotation.No specific formula in classical mechanics, as it is not a recognized force.
ApplicationApplicable in various real-world scenarios like planetary orbits, swinging balls, or turning cars.Conceptually used in rotating frames but not a force applied in practical situations.
Direction of AccelerationCauses acceleration toward the center of rotation.Appears as if it causes acceleration away from the center.
Frame of ReferenceAnalyzed from an external, inertial frame.Analyzed from a non-inertial, rotating frame.

Commonly Asked Questions

What is centripetal force?
Centripetal force directs an object in curvilinear motion toward the axis of rotation or center of curvature.

Give examples of centripetal force.
Examples include the moon revolving around the earth and the spinning top.

Does centripetal force increase with speed?
Yes! As the particle’s speed increases, the centripetal force it experiences also increases, as indicated by the expression (mv2/r).

Does centripetal force increase with radius?
No! The expression (mv2/r) suggests that as the radius of the particle’s turn increases, the experienced centripetal force decreases.

Compare centrifugal force and centripetal force.
While centripetal force is observed from an inertial frame of reference, centrifugal force is observed from a non-inertial frame of reference. Centripetal force directs toward the axis of rotation or center of curvature, whereas centrifugal force directs away from the center of the circle.


I hope we are now clear on the Difference Between Centrifugal And Centripetal Forces. If you have any doubts or queries reach out to us in the comments. Make sure to check other articles on the website too.

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