Difference Between Force vs Torque

Difference Between Force vs Torque

Physics is one of the most awesome yet the most complex subjects in the field of science. The scientists in the field have uncovered the biggest mysteries about the earth’s existence, and they keep us wondering about many others while they understand each phenomenon. With new discoveries come new terms or new concepts. The constant development makes this field exciting and complicated at the same time.

Physics makes us wonder about the differences between each concept. What’s the difference between mass and weight? How do we differentiate power from force? How do we calculate work? The different terms also make us compare them with one another. How does resistance compare with friction? What’s the similarity of speed and velocity in terms of formula?

To help you with your comparisons, this article will explain the difference between force and torque by defining each term and then laying out the facts about them in a chart, so you can easily figure out and remember how they compare with each other.

Definition of Force

Force is defined as any form of interaction that can change the course of an object if unobstructed. It is the actual pull or push that causes an object to change its position in response. Two things to keep in mind are that there must be an interaction between at least two objects and that there is a change in the position of the objects involved.

Note that a subject does not necessarily have to be in motion before its course can be changed. An object in a state of rest, at times, may need some form of force to maintain its position.

Speaking of interaction, there are two different categories.

  • Contact force

This is perceived when two or more objects are physically interacting with each other. Examples include spring, air resistance, normal, tension, frictional, and applied forces.

  • Act-at-a-distance force

It is perceived when two or more objects interact without any physical contact. Examples include electricity, gravity, and magnetism.

Conducting a torque vs force comparison, it is observed that the latter applies to both linear and rotational motion. That much cannot be said for the former, which only applies to rotational motion.

Definition of Torque

Torque is defined as a degree of force that can rotate an object about a central origin point. It is not the act of pulling or pushing that causes an object to change position but the measure of the act. Understanding this will help clear the air about inconsistencies that exist in force vs torque observation.

From another point of view, we understand that torque is directly proportional to angular acceleration (α). In other words, the more this degree increases, the more there an increase of α. With that in mind, we can point out that it is a vector quantity because it has both direction and magnitude.

Still discussing proportionality, it has been proven that this quantity is indirectly proportional to the distance from the axis. A very good example is opening a door.

Pushing the door open from the farthest side from its hinges is easier compared to pushing from the closest side to the hinges. As a matter of fact, the second instance requires more work than the first, but the measure of work done in both cases is the same.

Torque is classified into two categories. It can either be static, which means it does not produce an angular acceleration, or dynamic, which means it is producing acceleration.

Main Differences Between Force vs Torque

Refer to the table with main differences between force and torque below to have a clearer comparison.

Basis of ComparisonForceTorque
Definition An interaction that causes a body’s motion to change or remain the same An interaction that causes a body to rotate
SI unit Newton Newton-meters
Applies in Both linear and rotational motion Rotational motion
Formula F=ma ?=rXF
Vector type True vector Pseudovector

Difference Between Force and Torque: Conclusion

Force and torque are both very useful units of measure in Physics. They both act upon an object and cause it to move. The variation lies in the application of the forces. Force is present in every object; torque, however, only applies in angular motion. These two also differ in SI units or their unit of measure. You can express the former in newtons, as in, it took 25 newtons to make that object move. In the latter, you express it in newton-meters.

You can also think of it this way. To make a ball roll in a straight plane, you apply a force. However, to uncap your bottle, you will need torque. Physics can be a complex subject; however, if you think of the practical applications of each concept, it’ll be much easier to grasp their meaning.