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Thrust and Pressure

When a book is kept on a table its weight acts downwards and presses on the surface of contact of the table. This pressing force acting over the entire area of the surface is called thrust. Thrust is the total force acting perpendicular to the surface. The unit of thrust is Newton. The force acting over unit area is called pressure. The unit of pressure in the SI system is Newton/m2.

Pressure depends on two things:

  • the Force (in Newton) and
  • the Area it's pressing on (in square metres)
We work it out using:       Pressure = Force ÷ Area

We work it out using : Pressure = Force ÷ Area

Pressure is measured in Pascal (Pa for short),

1 Pascal means 1 Newton per square metre

Named after Blaise Pascal (1623- 1662), a French mathematician and physicist.

Books each exert the same
force on table.  

Which one exerts the
greater pressure?

-Green book/Blue book.

It is the blue book. Connect this to the formula Pressure = force / area

P= F/A

Pointed shoes offer more pressure because the force is more concentrated as it falls on a narrow surface (less area).



Find out why tankers are provided with large base area.


Cutting knives have sharp edges where as butter knives are blunt. Find out why?




Camels have padded feet with large area so that they don’t sink in the desert sands.

Find out why flat footed persons can walk in sand with more ease.



A wooden block of weight 80 N and area 2 square metre is placed on a table. Calculate the pressure exerted by the block on the table.


The force on the bench is the weight of the block= 80 N

The area of the block = 2 square metre

So the pressure on
the bench is = Force ÷ Area
                  = 80 ÷ 2
 = 40 Pascal


Differences between thrust and pressure :

Thrust is the total force acting perpendicular to the surface
Pressure is the force acting over unit area.
The unit of thrust is Newton.
The unit of pressure is Newton/sq.m.

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