Common Examples of Non-Contact Forces

, Staff Writer
Updated December 2, 2020
non-contact force examples
    non contact force examples
    sock: lakshmiprasad S / iStock / Getty Images Plus, apple tree: Andreas Coerper Mainz / Moment / Getty Images, compass: Mohd Khairil Majid / EyeEm / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

The phrase non-contact force is used in physics to describe the force that an object can apply to another object without actually making physical contact with it. There are a few different types of non-contact forces. Explore non-contact force examples from each type.

Examples of Electrostatic Force

Electrostatic force is the force that exists between two objects that are both electrostatically charged. Like charges are attracted to each other via this force, while those that are unlike are repelled from one another. Electrostatic force is the reason that plastic wrap tends to cling to your hand when you try to use it. Other common examples include:

  • clothing items that cling to each other being removed from a clothes dryer
  • sugar inside a plastic container is pulled to the sides of the container when it is shaken
  • the little shock that occurs when you scuff your feet on carpet and immediately touch a person or metal object
  • styrofoam packing peanuts sticking to your hand when you remove them from a package
  • attracting small pieces of paper to a comb by combing your hair quickly, then immediately holding it over the paper pieces

Examples of Gravitational Force

Gravitational force exists between all objects that have matter. It is a universal force that attracts objects toward one another. The Earth's gravitational force pulls everything toward the center of the Earth. It is what keeps people on the ground rather than floating. Other examples of gravitational force in everyday life include:

  • the Earth and other planets staying in a fixed orbit around the sun
  • a ball or other object that is thrown up falls back toward the ground
  • fruit that is growing on a tree falls to the ground when it detaches
  • ocean tides that occur as a result of the moon's gravitational force
  • roller coaster thrill rides that rely on gravitational force for downward motion

Examples of Magnetic Force

Magnetic force occurs when two magnetic fields interact with each other. Moving charges on metal objects create magnetic force, which can be either a pull (attraction) force or push (repulsion) force. Magnets that stick to a refrigerator or metal file cabinet stay in place due to magnetic force. Other illustrations of magnetic force include:

  • newer roller coasters that rely on magnetic force to keep the cars on the tracks
  • a compass that points north due to the attraction between the magnet inside the device with the Earth's south pole
  • a motor that turns due to the interaction of magnets on either side of the center
  • a door catch that holds a door closed due to magnetic force rather than a traditional latch
  • high-speed trains called maglev trains that rely on magnetism to keep train cars levitating above tracks

Learn More About Forces

The forces described above are ones that do not require objects to come in contact with one another. They do not represent all of the different kinds of forces. Some forces require contact. Now that you are familiar with some common examples of non-contact forces, expand your knowledge of physics by reviewing examples of the different types of contact forces in physics. Then, continue your force education with balanced and unbalanced forces.