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Physics – Extended Essay

For analysis, we will start a flat, massless belt passing over a cylindrical surface. If
we have an equal tension in each belt, the belt will experience a non-uniform normal
force from the cylinder that is supporting it.

In a frictionless scenario, if we were to increase the tension on one side of the rope
it would begin to slide across the cylinder. If friction exists between the rope and the
surface though, the friction force will oppose with sliding motion, and prevent it up
to a point.

With equal tensions on each side of the


belt, only a non-uniform normal force With unequal tensions, a friction force
exists between the belt and the surface. will also be present opposing the relative
sliding of the belt to the surface.

Friction in Flat Belts


Physics – Extended Essay

For a flat belt, the belt or cable will interact with the bottom surface. For a V belt, the belt
or cable will interact with the sides of a groove.

A flat belt is any system where the pulley or surface only interacts with the bottom
surface of the belt or cable. If the belt or cable instead fits into a groove, then it is
considered a V belt.

When analyzing systems with belts, we are usually interested in the range of values
for the tension forces where the belt will not slip relative to the surface. Starting with
the smaller tension force on one side (T1) we, can increase the second tension force
(T2) to some maximum value before slipping. For a flat belt, the maximum value for
T2 will depend on the value of T1, the static coefficient of friction between the belt
and the surface, and the contact angle between the belt and the surface (Beta) given
in radians, as described in the equation below.
Physics – Extended Essay

The maximum value of T2 before the belt starts slipping can be determined with the
equation above.

Friction in V Belts

A V belt is any belt that fits into a groove on a pulley or surface. For the V belt to be
effective, the belt or cable will need to be in contact with the sides of the groove, but
not the base of the groove as shown in the diagram below. With the normal forces
on each side, the vertical components must add up the the same as what the flat
belt would have, but the added horizontal components of the normal forces, which
cancel each other out, increase the potential for friction forces.

The equation for the maximum difference in tensions in V belt systems is similar to
the equation in flat belt systems, except we use an "enhanced" coefficient of friction
that takes into account the increased normal and friction forces possible because
of the groove.
Physics – Extended Essay

In a V belt, the "enhanced" coefficient of friction takes into account the coefficient of
friction between the two materials as well as the groove angle.

As we can see from the equation above, steeper sides to the groove (which would
result in a smaller angle alpha) result in an increased potential difference in the
tension forces. The trade-off with steeper sides however is that the belt becomes
wedged in the groove and will require force to unwedge itself from the groove as it
leaves the pulley. This will cause losses that decrease the efficiency of the belt driven
system. If very high tension differences are required, chain driven systems offer an
alternative that is usually more efficient.

Torque and Power Transmission in Belt Driven Systems

In belt driven systems there is usually an input pulley and one or more output pulleys.
To determine the maximum torque or power that can be transmitted by the belt, we
will need to consider each of the pulleys independently, understanding that slipping
occurring at either the input or the output will result in a failure of the power
transmission.
Physics – Extended Essay

A belt driven system with a single input and a single output.

The first step in determining the maximum torque or power that can be transmitted
in the belt drive is to determine the maximum possible value for T2 before slipping
occurs at either the input or output pulley (again slipping at either location cannot
occur). To start we will often be given the "resting tension". This is the tension in the
belt when everything is stationary and before power is transferred. Sometimes
machines will have adjustments to increase or decrease the resting tension by
slighting increasing or decreasing the distance between the pulleys. If we turn on the
machine and increase the load torque at the output, the tension on the one side of
the pulleys will remain constant as the resting tension while the tension on the other
side will increase. Since the resting tension is constant and always the lower of the
two tensions, it will be the T1 tension the equations discussed in earlier sections.

Though it is often wise to check, assuming the pulleys are the same material (and
therefore the same coefficients of friction), it is often assumed that the belt will first
slip at the smaller of the two pulleys in a single input, single output belt system. This
is because the smaller pulley will have a the smaller contact angle (Beta), while all
other values remain the same.

Once we have the maximum value for T2, we can use that to find the torque at the
input pulley and the torque at the output pulley. Note that these two values will not
be the same unless the pulleys are the same size. To find the torque, we will simply
need to find the net moment exerted by the two tension forces, where the radius of
the pulley is the moment arm.
Physics – Extended Essay

To find the maximum power we can transfer with the belt drive system, we will use
the rotational definition of power, where the power is equal to the torque times the
angular velocity in radians per second. Unlike the torque, the power at the input and
the output will be the same assuming no inefficiencies.