By Peter DeFelice
The potential energy you build going up the hill can be released as kinetic energy the energy of motion that takes you down Roller coaster switch between potential energy and kinetic energy throughout the whole ride. An example is the potential-energy level builds as the train speeds to the top of the loop, but it is soon converted back to kinetic energy as the train leaves the loop.
Potential energy is the energy possessed by a body as a result of its position or condition rather than its motion, while kinetic energy is the energy of a body or a system with respect to the motion of the body or of the particles in the system.
The types of forces used in a roller coaster are gravity, inertia those send the train of cars along the track. When you combine gravity, inertia, G-force and centripetal acceleration those types of energy help give the body the sensations as the coasters moves up, down and around the track.
While the train travels up the tall parts of the roller coaster they are building up potential energy, at the highest point they have the maximum amount of potential energy. As that train goes down the hill this potential energy is converted into the kinetic energy. That makes the train speed up until it reaches its maximum kinetic energy level with very little potential energy. That kinetic energy is what propels the train right back up the next hill again building up the potential energy. You repeat the transfer again from the potential energy to the kinetic energy as it travels down the hill again, once that train enters the loop it has tons of kinetic energy but barely any potential energy. As it speeds to the top of the loop it builds up the potential energy level again and as it leaves the loop that energy is converted back into kinetic energy.
Without the changes in energy in a roller coaster you could end up with either a coaster that goes no where or one that goes so fast it can't be controlled. In order for the coaster to pick up enough speed to do the many loops it has there has to be enough kinetic energy built up and that kinetic energy that gets built up comes from the potential energy that the coaster builds up when it reaches the top of a huge hill. So if there was just potential energy there would be no way for the roller coaster to pick up enough speed to make these loops or go back up the hill so it would just end up sitting there. If the coaster had all kinetic energy there would be no way to build up the speed needed to make the kinetic energy have any force. So they both need to be there and be part of the roller coaster in order to make it the best thrill that you will ever go on.
Wooden Coaster are made structurally with wooden tracks and steel rails. They basically are called wooden roller coasters because the the tracks are made with wood. Besides the wood they also use steel, steel lattice and steel truss to build these coasters. Wooden roller coasters give a more exciting ride sometimes over steel ones because of the fear people people have of them being not as structurally sound as a steel ones because they are made out of wood. Plus because of the main structure being wood these coasters sway when trains pass on the tracks in order to prevent collapsing due to the weight of the cars which adds to the fear people have that the wooden coaster will collapse. With limited wood supply wood coasters are not known for having tons of loops either.
Steel Coasters on the other hand are completely made out of steel, usually the strongest most sturdy metal there is. Since the tracks are more sturdy being metal, steel coasters can add all kinds of dangerous outrageous loops, drops, corkscrews all kinds of fun and exciting things. Which makes it that many places are trying to constantly come up with the fastest biggest meanest roller coaster there is because with steel you have so many more options in comparison to the wood ones. The ride on a steel coaster is faster and smoother than on a wooden coaster. People are less afraid it will collapse and more afraid of the tons of loops and drops they are able to due with a sturdier building material.
The building of a coaster takes many different elements but safety is always the most important. I will start with the brakes, like with anything that moves especially at such a high speed it needs breaks. This braking system helps it stop precisely at the end of the track and at other braking points like when going around a curve so that the train does not flip off the track. Its a simple system with a series of clamps positioned at the end of the track and at all other braking points. It is not built into the individual trains it is build into the track itself. A central computer operates the hydraulic system which closes these clamps when the train needs to stop. How the clamp stops the strain is it closes on the vertical metal fins that run under the train and the friction gradually slows the train down.
The wheel is another important part of safety on a roller coaster the perfect wheel is important. The wheel is usually made of aluminum and a bonding a polyurethane tire to the outside of the hub. There are three types of wheels to secure the train to the track, road wheels which bear the weight, up stop wheels that prevent the train from coming off the track, side friction wheels. All of these wheels work together to keep the train safely on the tracks.
Now lets move to the restraint system this keeps all of us safe while riding these roller coasters. Without these systems we would all be in a lot of trouble. You will be secured with one or two types of restraint a lap bar which obviously goes over your lap to hold you in. It is usually a large metal bar. The other is some sort of over the shoulder harness, this also is usually made of metal and has padding on it. The restraint system on all roller coasters is controlled by the computer system. There are three programmable logic controllers that monitor every aspect of the coasters operation. To be honest even without the harness most of the time inertia would help keep you in the seat. These systems are all set to lock in place as soon as everyone is on and the roller coaster is ready to take off. They do move a little but not to where you will fall out of them.The last system that helps with the safety is probably the most important. That is the computer that controls everything, from the starting of the roller coaster, to the brakes and even the restraint system. This is that programmable logic controllers that regulate the speed of the coaster, if two separate trains come too close to each other, they alert the person in charge of running the coaster to any glitches or problems on the tracks, they also alert them if someones safety harness did not lock properly so no one is leaving the station not securely locked, These computer systems are checked on a daily basis to make sure that there are no glitches in them. If something seems off the coaster is shut down until it can be properly checked out by the human eye to make sure there are not problems. When building a roller coaster before it even hits the ground there are many engineers that help develop every safety feature possible to make it not only the biggest thrill you had but also the safest one.