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Impulse (physics)

In classical mechanics, impulse

(symbolized by J or Imp[1]) is the integral
of a force, F, over the time interval, t, for
which it acts. Since force is a vector
quantity, impulse is also a vector in the
same direction. Impulse applied to an
object produces an equivalent vector
change in its linear momentum, also in the
same direction.[2] The SI unit of impulse is
the newton second (N⋅s), and the
dimensionally equivalent unit of
momentum is the kilogram meter per
second (kg⋅m/s). The corresponding
English engineering units are the pound-
second (lbf⋅s) and the slug-foot per
second (slug⋅ft/s).

Common symbols J, Imp

SI unit Newton second (N⋅s)

Other units pound⋅s

Conserved? yes

Dimension momentum
A resultant force causes acceleration and
a change in the velocity of the body for as
long as it acts. A resultant force applied
over a longer time therefore produces a
bigger change in linear momentum than
the same force applied briefly: the change
in momentum is equal to the product of
the average force and duration.
Conversely, a small force applied for a long
time produces the same change in
momentum—the same impulse—as a
larger force applied briefly.

The impulse is the integral of the resultant

force (F) with respect to time:
Mathematical derivation in
the case of an object of
constant mass

Play media
The impulse delivered by the sad [3] ball is mv0, where
v0 is the speed upon impact. To the extent that it
bounces back with speed v0, the happy ball delivers
an impulse of mΔv=2mv0.
Impulse J produced from time t1 to t2 is
defined to be[4]

where F is the resultant force applied from

t1 to t2.

From Newton's second law, force is related

to momentum p by

where Δp is the change in linear
momentum from time t1 to t2. This is often
called the impulse-momentum theorem.[5]

As a result, an impulse may also be

regarded as the change in momentum of
an object to which a resultant force is
applied. The impulse may be expressed in
a simpler form when the mass is constant:
A large force applied for a very short duration, such
as a golf shot, is often described as the club giving
the ball an impulse.


F is the resultant force applied,

t1 and t2 are times when the impulse
begins and ends, respectively,
m is the mass of the object,
v2 is the final velocity of the object at the
end of the time interval, and
v1 is the initial velocity of the object
when the time interval begins.

Impulse has the same units and

dimensions (M L T−1) as momentum. In
the International System of Units, these
are kg⋅m/s = N⋅s. In English engineering
units, they are slug⋅ft/s = lbf⋅s.

The term "impulse" is also used to refer to

a fast-acting force or impact. This type of
impulse is often idealized so that the
change in momentum produced by the
force happens with no change in time.
This sort of change is a step change, and
is not physically possible. However, this is
a useful model for computing the effects
of ideal collisions (such as in game
physics engines). Additionally, in rocketry,
the term "total impulse" is commonly used
and is considered synonymous with the
term "impulse".

Variable mass
The application of Newton's second law
for variable mass allows impulse and
momentum to be used as analysis tools
for jet- or rocket-propelled vehicles. In the
case of rockets, the impulse imparted can
be normalized by unit of propellant
expended, to create a performance
parameter, specific impulse. This fact can
be used to derive the Tsiolkovsky rocket
equation, which relates the vehicle's
propulsive change in velocity to the
engine's specific impulse (or nozzle
exhaust velocity) and the vehicle's
propellant-mass ratio.

See also
Wave–particle duality defines the
impulse of a wave collision. The
preservation of momentum in the
collision is then called phase matching.
Applications include:
Compton effect
Nonlinear optics
Acousto-optic modulator
Electron phonon scattering
Dirac delta function, mathematical
abstraction of a pure impulse

1. Beer, F.P., E.R. Johnston, Jr., D.F.
Mazurek, P.J. Cornwell, and E.R.
Eisenberg. (2010). Vector Mechanics
for Engineers; Statics and Dynamics.
9th ed. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.
2. Impulse of Force , Hyperphysics
3. Property Differences In Polymers:
Happy/Sad Balls
4. Hibbeler, Russell C. (2010).
Engineering Mechanics (12th ed.).
Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 222. ISBN 0-
5. See, for example, section 9.2, page
257, of Serway (2004).

Serway, Raymond A.; Jewett, John W.
(2004). Physics for Scientists and
Engineers (6th ed.). Brooks/Cole.
ISBN 0-534-40842-7.
Tipler, Paul (2004). Physics for
Scientists and Engineers: Mechanics,
Oscillations and Waves,
Thermodynamics (5th ed.). W. H.
Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0809-4.

External links

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