An elastic collision is a collision between two or more bodies in which the total kinetic energy of the bodies before the collision is equal to the total kinetic energy of the bodies after the collision. An elastic collision will not occur if kinetic energy is converted into other forms of energy. It important to understand how elastic collisions work, because atoms often undergo essentially elastic collisions when they collide. On the other hand, molecules do not undergo elastic collisions when they collide . In this atom we will review case of collision between two bodies.
The mathematics of an elastic collision is best demonstrated through an example.
Consider a first particle with mass
Since we have two equations, we are able to solve for any two unknown variables. In our case, we will solve for the final velocities of the two particles.
By grouping like terms and canceling out the ½ terms, we can rewrite our conservation of kinetic energy equation as:
By grouping like terms from our conservation of momentum equation we can find:
If we then divide Eq. 1 by Eq. 2 and perform some cancelations we will find:
We can solve for
At this point we see that
After doing a little bit of algebra on Eq. 5 we find:
At this point we have successfully solved for the final velocity of the second particle. We still need to solve for the velocity of the first particle, so let us do that by plugging Eq. 6 into Eq. 4.
After performing some algebraic manipulation of Eq. 7, we finally find: