What is centripetal acceleration?

Meaning of Centripetal Acceleration

Centripetal acceleration (ca), also called normal or radial acceleration , is a type of acceleration that occurs in bodies that form a circular or curvilinear path.

Centripetal acceleration (“ center seeking ”) is a vector quantity that acts on circular motion causing the motion to change direction along the path.


This acceleration is directed towards the center of the trajectory. It is also known as normal acceleration l.

When a mobile moves in a uniform circular motion , it describes a path. This path forms an arc of a circle.

The orientation (direction) of centripetal acceleration is turned toward the center of the path, with constant modulus, because the velocity and radius of the path are constant.

Because it is a vector quantity , it has the following characteristics:

  • Module: is the value found for the acceleration;
  • Direction: it is perpendicular to the speed of the vector for each point of the trajectory;
  • Orientation: it is oriented towards the center of the trajectory where the mobile is located;

Centripetal acceleration

The centripetal acceleration exists only in the movements of curved trajectories and does not depend on the type of movement, whether it is varied or uniform.

It is worth mentioning that if the modulus varies , the direction of movement can change.


When this mobile travels along this trajectory with scalar velocity , it travels a distance in a given time. So we call this a period of revolution .

The period or period of revolution is defined as the time a mobile spends to travel a closed path.

We use the following formula to calculate the Period :

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