AQA GCSE Physics

Revision Notes

5.6.15 Representing Terminal Velocity

Representing Terminal Velocity

  • A velocity-time graph can show how the velocity of an object changes in time as it reaches terminal velocity
  • There are characteristic features of all terminal velocity graphs:
    • The gradient (or slope) of a velocity-time graph represents the acceleration of the object
    • On any terminal velocity graph, the gradient (acceleration) will decrease from being very large down to zero
    • Sometimes the gradient is negative (i.e. showing deceleration, or slowing down)

Debbie opens parachute, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

Debbie the skydiver experiences a large deceleration (her speed decreases suddenly) as soon as she opens her parachute, because of a large resultant force upwards

  • The image above shows a skydiver slowing down, due to the large upwards resultant force acting on her
    • At this moment in time, the air resistance is larger than the skydiver’s weight (due to the parachute’s huge surface area)
    • This results in a large unbalanced force upwards, decelerating the skydiver’s descent
  • The graph below summarises how a skydiver’s velocity changes up to and following the point of opening a parachute:

V-T graph for Terminal Velocity, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

Graph showing how the velocity of a skydiver changes during descent

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