Force, Work, Power, and Torque (Part Three)

in Physics


The concept of power involves the previously discussed topic of work, which was a force being applied over a measured distance, but adds one more consideration — time. In other words, how long does it take to accomplish the work. If someone asked the average person if he or she could lift one million pounds 5 feet off the ground, the answer most assuredly would be no. This person would probably assume that he or she is to lift it all at once. What if he or she is given 365 days to lift it, and could lift small amounts of weight at a time? The work involved would be the same, regardless of how long it took to lift the weight, but the power required is different. If the weight is to be lifted in a shorter period of time, it will take more power. The formula for power is as follows:

Power = Force × distance ÷ time

The units for power will be foot-pounds per minute, foot-pounds per second, inch-pounds per minute or second, and possibly mile-pounds per hour. The units depend on how distance and time are measured.

Many years ago there was a desire to compare the power of the newly evolving steam engine to that of horses. People wanted to know how many horses the steam engine was equivalent to. Because of this, the value we currently know as one horsepower (hp) was developed, and it is equal to 550 foot-pounds per second (ft-lb/s). It was found that the average horse could lift a weight of 550 lb, one foot off the ground, in one second. The values we use today, in order to convert power to horsepower, are as follows:


To convert power to horsepower, divide the power by the appropriate conversion based on the units being used.

Example: What power would be needed, and also horsepower, to raise the GE-90 turbofan engine into position to install it on a Boeing 777-300 airplane? The engine weighs 19,000 lb, and it must be lifted 4 ft in 2 minutes.


The hoist that will be used to raise this engine into position will need to be powered by an electric motor because the average person will not be able to generate 1.15 hp in their arms for the necessary 2 minutes.

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