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Inclined Plane

Learn about the normal force, center of gravity, parallel force and acceleration down an inclined plane

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Inclined Planes


The highway above switches back and forth as it climbs up the steep hillside. The much gentler slope of the road makes it easier for vehicles to reach the top of the mountain. The highway is an example of an inclined plane.

What Is an Inclined Plane?

An inclined plane is a simple machine that consists of a sloping surface connecting a lower elevation to a higher elevation. An inclined plane is one of six types of simple machines, and it is one of the oldest and most basic. In fact, two other simple machines, the wedge and the screw, are variations of the inclined plane.

A ramp like the one in the Figure below is another example of an inclined plane. Inclined planes make it easier to move objects to a higher elevation. The sloping surface of the inclined plane supports part of the weight of the object as it moves up the slope. As a result, it takes less force to move the object uphill. The trade-off is that the object must be moved over a greater distance than if it were moved straight up to the higher elevation. You can see several other examples of inclined planes at this URL:


Mechanical Advantage of an Inclined Plane

The mechanical advantage of a simple machine is the factor by which it multiplies the force applied to the machine. It is the ratio of output force (the force put out by the machined) to input force (the force put into the machine). For an inclined plane, less force is put into moving an object up the slope than if the object were lifted straight up, so the mechanical advantage is greater than 1. The more gradual the slope of the inclined plane, the less input force is needed and the greater the mechanical advantage.


  • An inclined plane is a simple machine that consists of a sloping surface connecting a lower elevation to a higher elevation. It is used to move objects more easily to the higher elevation.
  • Less force is needed to move an object uphill with an inclined plane, but the force must be applied over a greater distance.
  • The mechanical advantage of an inclined plane is always greater than 1, because the machine puts out more force than the user puts into it.

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