11.2: Net Torque Calculations
When a mechanic tries to remove a hex nut with a wrench, it is easier if the force is applied at the farthest end of the wrench handle. The lever arm is the distance from the pivot point (the hex nut in this case) to the person’s hand. If this distance is large, the torque is higher. Only the component of the force perpendicular to the lever arm contributes to the torque. Therefore, pushing the wrench perpendicular to the lever arm is more advantageous. If multiple people apply force to rotate the same wrench, then the torque applied by each person simply adds up to generate the resultant torque.
Torque problems can be solved by following the step-by-step strategy listed below:
- Choose a coordinate system with the pivot point or axis of rotation as the origin of the selected coordinate system.
- Determine the angle between the lever arm and the force vector.
- Take the cross product of the lever arm and force vector to determine if the torque is positive or negative about the pivot point or axis.
- Evaluate the magnitude of the torque by multiplying the magnitude of the lever arm vector with the sine component of the force vector.
- Assign the appropriate sign—positive or negative—to the magnitude.
- Sum the torques to find the net torque.
This text is adapted from Openstax, University Physics Volume 1, Section 10.6: Torque.