University the Wisconsin-Stevens point > CNR connected Programs > Wisconsin K-12 Energy education and learning Program > energy Education: Concepts and also Practices > ar B: 2 Main creates of Energy
​ Unit 1: What is Energy?

Section B. Two Main forms of Energy

The power we sense all roughly us seems to have plenty of forms. Fires burn, rubber bands snap back, flashlights revolve on and also shine, objects fall, and things appear to be hot, cold, or just the appropriate temperature. Through so much going on, how can we figure out what develops of energy these things and events have? After thousands of years of observation and experimentation, science has classified power into two key forms: kinetic energy and also potential energy. In addition, potential energy takes several forms of its own.

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Kinetic energy is defined as the energy of a moving object. A thrown football, a speeding automobile, a marathon runner, or a rock falling native a cliff, are examples of objects that have kinetic energy.
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Potential power is characterized as the energy connected with the setup of a system of objects the exert pressures on one another. Potential energy is save on computer or released as soon as the plan of the objects and/or the pressures they exert on every other changes in some way. Equipment of objects varying from atom to planets deserve to be arranged in plenty of ways, result in plenty of forms the potential energy: chemical, elastic, electrical (electromagnetic), gravitational, nuclear, and thermal energy. 

Although potential power is regularly referred to together "stored" energy, two misconceptions might arise once referred come in this way. First, saying that energy is save on computer in miscellaneous may suggest that power is some type of invisible substance, which that isn't. Second, take into consideration a textbook held above a great floor. Plenty of would say that the textbook has potential power stored in ~ it, and also it is often convenient come think that only the textbook has potential energy. However, the textbook has actually potential energy since it is part of a mechanism that has the Earth, one in i m sorry both exert gravitational pressures on every other. In various other words, the textbook would not have actually potential power if it were not for the Earth. 

Various creates of Potential Energy

chemical Potential Energy 

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The chemistry makeup (arrangement of molecules) that gasoline renders it a an excellent fuel source. All nonliving and living things, from automobiles come zebras, are made up of molecules. That takes energy to do these molecules and hold castle together. The energy stored in molecule is referred to as chemical potential energy. Throughout combustion, bonds are broken and reformed creating brand-new products. The power stored in petrol is released by burning it (combustion). Throughout combustion, chemical bonds are broken and also reformed (changing gasoline into byproducts such together water and carbon dioxide) release energy. Over there are countless examples of chemical potential power being converted to kinetic energy to carry out work. The chemical power in food is provided by our body to move. In a lighted firecracker chemical power is used to do a according to sound and to scatter piece of the firecracker every over.

Elastic Potential Energy

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A extended rubber band has the potential to do work or adjust things. This kind of energy is called elastic potential energy. It wake up when an item (such together our skin, a spring, a trampoline, or a rubber band) resists being stretched out that shape. The elastic potential energy in a rubber band can be provided to execute work. For example, toy airplane fly once a rubber tape untwists and also spins a propeller. The elastic potential power in the rubber tape was converted right into kinetic energy.

Electrical (Electromagnetic) Potential Energy

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Electrical potential energy is current when confident and an adverse electric charges room separated from each other, together is a battery. As soon as you rotate on a device that is battery-operated, such as a flashlight or a toy, the electrical potential power stored in the battery is converted into other creates of energy such as sound, mechanically motion, heat energy, and also light. For an electrical appliance friend plug in, the electric potential power is maintained by a turn generator of a power plant, hydroelectric dam, or a windmill. A solar cabinet stores electrical potential energy comparable to a battery as lengthy as the sunlight is bright on it.

Gravitational Potential Energy

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When something is lifted, work-related is excellent on the object versus the traction of gravity. This occupational is convert to a type of potential energy called gravitational potential energy. When the item falls towards planet like one apple indigenous a tree, gravitational potential energy is converted right into kinetic energy.

Nuclear Potential Energy


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Nuclear potential energy, or atom energy, is the energy uncovered in the nuclei that atoms. The proton in a cell nucleus exert very strong repulsive pressures on every other due to their positive charge. In turn, the neutron that make up a cell core exert very strong forces ~ above the protons to save them from paris apart. Splitting a big nucleus (nuclear fission) or combining small nuclei into a larger nucleus (nuclear fusion) overcomes these solid forces and releases energy as a result. The energy released by an individual nucleus is very small, but vast numbers of nuclei can release vast amounts of power as evidenced by the energy created by atom reactors (fission) and by the sun (nuclear fusion).


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Thermal energy is due to the movement, and also the kinetic energy associated with this movement, of molecules the make up things or substance. Every objects own thermal power (even cold ones) since they have actually a temperature over absolute zero. Proof of thermal power can be detected by measuring the temperature of one object.


Although technically incorrect, the word heat is frequently used to average thermal energy. In strict clinical terms, there is a distinctive difference between the two. Heat energy comes to the kinetic power of the molecules in ~ an object. Warm is the transfer of energy between two objects. Where possible, we have tried to remain true to this distinctions. However, due to the fact that heat is the more familiar term we often use that to facilitate understanding. 


Sound, mechanical motion, heat, and light space not quickly classified as kinetic and also potential energy. They are evidence of energy.

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 Movementsoundheat, and light provide evidence that power is present and also being used. Sound is produced when us strike something. Yet does sound perform work? Yes, sound can move things. Sound waves relocate the tiny bones in your ear and shake windows as soon as a loud truck passes by. Sound tide are also evident in the vibrations from playing a radio. 


Our body is working also when it appears to it is in still. Breathing, blinking, and digesting food all require energy. For us to carry out these activities, our body burn the power in food. We know this is happening because we feel heat (burning generates thermal power ). Therefore, warm is proof that power is being used.