Simple Machine: Inclined Plane

Simple Machine: Inclined Plane

An inclined plane helps carry out certain tasks without consuming a high amount of energy. The concept is used in many different machines which we use on a daily basis.
An inclined plane is a concept used in many different forms of machines. The principle of countering gravitational force by a 'normal' force is used in the case of such planes. Here, the 'normal' force means force acting in a direction perpendicular to the surface of the inclined plane in an outward manner. The normal force can be either increased or decreased by changing the degree of the angle of inclination.

The amount of energy required to lift an object in a vertical manner up to a certain point, is greater than that required in an inclined manner. Thus, the roads constructed in valleys are inclined.

Different Machines Using Inclined Plane
The concept of inclined planes can be better explained with the help of the following examples.
  • Ramps: They help in lifting and moving heavy objects without much effort. While loading and unloading a truck, a ramp proves to be of great use. It makes the process much easier for the laborers. Ramps were also used during wars in ancient times. These helped in carrying heavy equipment beyond walls or other tall objects.
  • Slides and Chutes: These type of planes have found many applications; especially in lowering people safely from airplanes in times of emergency. Slides facilitate fast movement in such situations without causing any injury to people.
  • Funnels and Hoppers: Funnels are used to gather and concentrate substances in order to channelize them.
  • Roller Coasters and Water Slides: Inclined slides can also be used for entertainment in roller coasters and water slides. Moreover, if the friction is reduced, in this case by water, the ride becomes fun-filled and joyful.
  • Skiing: A good use of the concept is made in this extreme sport. The acute angle provided by mountain slopes helps in generating great speeds during skiing. The ice, which acts as the surface in skiing, reduces the friction to a great extent making the sport much more entertaining.
  • Blades: Different types of blades use the principle behind the inclined plane. An ax which has two inclined faces that meet at one point, makes optimum use of the concept. The 'normal' forces emanating from the surface of the ax, acts on the material to be cut. This concentrated effect helps in cutting the material easily.
  • Drills: The inclined planes of the tip of the drills help in exerting force and allows it to bore into the surface which is to be drilled. The rotating motion of the drills amplifies the normal force and the torque. This makes the drilling process easy.
  • Water Wheel: Water wheels, used in ancient times, also made use of inclined planes. The planes around a wheel convert the momentum of water into a force necessary to turn the shaft.
  • Sails: Ships and medium-sized boats use sails for moving forward with the help of wind. Here too, the surface of sails which is actually an inclined plane, comes into play.
  • Windmills: These machines use inclined planes to convert energy generated by wind into electricity.
  • Aircraft Wings: The wings of an aircraft are inclined in shape, in order to resist gravitational pull.
  • Marine Propellers: The inclined blades of marine propellers facilitate easy movement through water.
  • Turbines: These are used in hydroelectric power plants. The inclined shape of turbines, helps the mechanical force applied on its surface, to be converted into electrical energy.
A simple, yet important, mechanism to ease out various day-to-day tasks, the inclined plane is used in many machines. This simple machine has made a sea change in how things work around us and has made life a little bit easier.