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This HTML5 simulation demonstrates how friction affects temperature and molecular motion. Rub two books together to generate friction and watch the temperature increase as the molecules' kinetic energy increases. As greater friction is applied, some of the molecules in the "Chemistry" book break free of their bonds. However, the molecules in the "Physics" book are much more tightly bound. (No amount of heat will remove them.) This simulation is appropriate for conceptual physics courses as a way to introduce friction in terms of both macroscale and molecular-scale interactions. Don't miss the 2-minute Video Primer and the pdf "Teacher Tips" overview.  

This is part of a larger collection developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET).

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: Friction is a highly complex phenomenon. It cannot be fully represented by a simple model. In introducing friction, this simulation can be very useful in helping students ask questions about how friction from rubbing two objects is related to temperature and to kinetic energy of the molecules in each of the interacting objects. Note: Teachers may need to provide scaffolds to ensure that learners carefully look at the differences between the two objects -- the "Chemistry" book and the "Physics" book. Why do molecules fly off the Chemistry book but stay bound on the Physics book?
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
= Friction
Other Sciences
- Chemistry
Thermo & Stat Mech
- First Law
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Activity
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© 2017 University of Colorado, Physics Education Technology
Additional information is available.
Kinetic-Molecular Theory, friction, heat, kinetic friction, temperature, thermodynamics
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 15, 2007 by Alea Smith
Record Updated:
December 26, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
November 15, 2017

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Structure and Properties of Matter (PS1.A)
  • A stable molecule has less energy than the same set of atoms separated; one must provide at least this energy in order to take the molecule apart. (9-12)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
  • Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of particles of matter. The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter present. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. (9-12)
  • Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Asking Questions and Defining Problems (K-12)
  • Asking questions and defining problems in grades 9–12 builds from grades K–8 experiences and progresses to formulating, refining, and evaluating empirically testable questions and design problems using models and simulations. (9-12)
    • Ask questions that arise from examining models or a theory to clarify relationships. (9-12)
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Record Link
AIP Format
(PhET, Boulder, 2017), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction).
PhET Simulation: Friction, (PhET, Boulder, 2017), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Friction. (2017, November 15). Retrieved October 14, 2019, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: Friction. Boulder: PhET, November 15, 2017. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction (accessed 14 October 2019).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Friction. Boulder: PhET, 2017. 15 Nov. 2017. 14 Oct. 2019 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Friction}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2019}, Number = {14 October 2019}, Month = {November 15, 2017}, Year = {2017} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Friction
%D November 15, 2017
%C Boulder
%U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D November 15, 2017
%T PhET Simulation: Friction
%V 2019
%N 14 October 2019
%8 November 15, 2017
%9 text/html
%U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/friction

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