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Inclined Plane

What is an Inclined Plane

An inclined plane is a simple machine consisting of a sloping surface. It does not have any moving parts, neither does it move. Inclined planes are useful because they can raise heavy objects against the force of gravity without the object going vertically.

How Does an Inclined Plane Work

An inclined plane works by taking advantage of the slope or inclination, making it easier to work against gravity. The force required to overcome gravity is much less than the force required to lift an object vertically; the latter is equal to the object’s weight. However, the distance traversed by the object will be longer.

Inclined Plane

Mechanical Advantage of Inclined Plane

The mechanical advantage of an inclined plane is defined as the ratio of the output force to the applied force. It is expressed in terms of distances. The following equation gives the formula for ideal mechanical advantage (IMA).

IMA = L/h


L: Length of the inclined plane

h: Maximum height of the inclined plane

According to the equation, the longer the plane, the easier moving an object upward. Hence, an inclined plane reduces the effort force by increasing the distance through which the force is applied.

The above equation ignores the friction between the object and the inclined plane. If friction were considered, then the mechanical advantage formula would give the actual value. Therefore, the efficiency of an inclined plane is the ratio of the actual mechanical advantage (AMA) and ideal mechanical advantage.

Efficiency = Actual mechanical advantage/Ideal mechanical advantage x 100%

In reality, the actual mechanical advantage is always less than the ideal mechanical advantage. Hence, the efficiency is always less than 100%.

Mechanical Advantage of Inclined Plane

Examples of Inclined Plane

There are many examples of inclined planes that are used in real everyday life.

  • Sloping road
  • Sloped driveway
  • Ramp
  • Stunt ramps
  • Slide
  • Waterslide
  • Aqueduct
  • Mailboxes
  • Funnel
  • Slanted roof
  • Pyramids
  • Inclined conveyor belt
Inclined Plane Examples

Applications and Uses of Inclined Plane

Inclined planes serve many purposes ranging from basic needs to engineering applications. Here are some interesting facts about their uses and applications.

  • A sloping road connects a roadway to a bridge or overpass.
  • A ramp is used instead of a staircase for wheelchairs and shopping carts in departmental stores.
  • Ancient pyramids had ramps that allowed laborers to roll up stones.
  • A parking garage has ramps allowing vehicles to move from one level to another.
  • A sloped driveway is used in front of houses, stone buildings, and palaces for driving vehicles up to the entrance. In old times, horse-drawn carriages would ride up the driveway.
  • A stunt performer uses a stunt ramp to perform motorcycle stunts.
  • Children use slides in a playground for fun.
  • Waterslides are found in water parks for entertainment.
  • Old Roman aqueducts incline to facilitate the flow of water.
  • Mailboxes are inclined so that the letter slides to the bottom.
  • A funnel is inclined so that a liquid can flow smoothly into a flask.
  • Houses have slanted roofs so that water and snow do not remain on them.
  • Italian physicist Galileo Galilei used an inclined plane to study the motion of objects at a lower acceleration than acceleration due to gravity.
  • In physics and mathematics, an inclined plane resolves vectors into components parallel and perpendicular to the plane.

Besides, inclined planes are also used in other simple machines like a screw and a wedge. A wedge is considered as a moving inclined plane. A screw is a narrow inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder.


Q.1. Are stairs an inclined plane?

Ans. A staircase is considered an inclined plane because it makes an angle to the surface. So, when a person climbs stairs, they are not climbing vertically.

Q.2. Is an escalator an inclined plane?

Ans. An escalator is an inclined plane since it is in the same category as a staircase.

Q.3. Is a ladder an inclined plane?

Ans. A ladder is considered an inclined plane because it is placed at an angle to the surface. When a person climbs the ladder, they are not climbing vertically.

Q.4. How is the floor of a bathtub an inclined plane?

Ans. The floor of a bathtub is inclined so that water can drain out.

Q.5. Is a screwdriver an inclined plane?

Ans. A screwdriver is not an inclined plane. It is a type of wheel and axle simple machine.

Article was last reviewed on Tuesday, January 18, 2022

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