University the Wisconsin-Stevens point > CNR associated 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 energy we feeling all about us appears to have numerous forms. Fires burn, rubber bands snap back, flashlights turn on and also shine, objects fall, and also things appear to it is in hot, cold, or simply the ideal temperature. With so much going on, how have the right to we figure out what develops of energy these things and events have? After thousands of years that observation and experimentation, science has actually classified power into two key forms: kinetic energy and potential energy. In addition, potential power takes several creates of its own.

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Kinetic energy is identified as the power of a relocating object. A thrown football, a speeding automobile, a marathon runner, or a rock falling indigenous a cliff, are instances of objects that have kinetic energy.
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Potential power is identified as the energy associated with the plan of a system of objects the exert forces on one another. Potential power is save on computer or released once the setup of the objects and/or the forces they exert on every other changes in some way. Systems of objects varying from atom to planets have the right to be i ordered it in countless ways, resulting in many forms the potential energy: chemical, elastic, electrical (electromagnetic), gravitational, nuclear, and thermal energy. 

Although potential energy is often referred to as "stored" energy, two misconceptions might arise as soon as referred to in this way. First, saying that power is save in miscellaneous may indicate that energy is some kind of invisible substance, which that isn't. Second, think about a textbook held over a classroom floor. Numerous would say the the textbook has potential energy stored within it, and also it is often convenient to think that only the textbook has actually potential energy. However, the textbook has potential energy because it is component of a device that includes the Earth, one in i m sorry both exert gravitational pressures on each other. In various other words, the textbook would certainly not have potential energy if it were no for the Earth. 

Various develops of Potential Energy

chemistry Potential Energy 

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The chemistry makeup (arrangement the molecules) the gasoline provides it a great fuel source. All nonliving and also living things, from automobiles come zebras, are made up of molecules. That takes power to do these molecules and also hold lock together. The energy stored in molecule is referred to as chemical potential energy. During combustion, bonds room broken and reformed creating brand-new products. The energy stored in petrol is exit by burning it (combustion). Throughout combustion, chemistry bonds space broken and also reformed (changing gasoline into byproducts such together water and carbon dioxide) release energy. Over there are many examples of chemical potential power being converted to kinetic energy to do work. The chemical energy in food is used by our bodies to move. In a lighted firecracker chemical power is provided to make a according to sound and also to scatter pieces of the firecracker all over.

Elastic Potential Energy

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A extended rubber band has actually the potential come do job-related or change things. This form of energy is referred to as elastic potential energy. It wake up when things (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 deserve to be used to carry out work. Because that example, toy plane fly as soon as a rubber tape untwists and also spins a propeller. The elastic potential energy in the rubber band was converted into kinetic energy.

Electrical (Electromagnetic) Potential Energy

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Electrical potential power is present when confident and an adverse electric charges room separated from each other, together is a battery. When you turn on a maker that is battery-operated, such as a flashlight or a toy, the electrical potential energy stored in the battery is converted into other develops of power such together sound, mechanically motion, thermal energy, and light. Because that an electric appliance you plug in, the electrical potential energy is preserved by a turn generator the a strength plant, hydroelectric dam, or a windmill. A solar cell stores electric potential energy similar to a battery as lengthy as the sunlight is glowing on it.

Gravitational Potential Energy

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When something is lifted, job-related is excellent on the object versus the pull of gravity. This work is convert to a kind of potential energy dubbed gravitational potential energy. As soon as the item drops towards earth 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 nuclear energy, is the energy uncovered in the nuclei the atoms. The proton in a cell core exert very strong repulsive pressures on each other due to their optimistic charge. In turn, the neutrons that make up a nucleus exert very strong forces ~ above the protons to save them from flying apart. Dividing a huge nucleus (nuclear fission) or combining tiny nuclei right into a larger nucleus (nuclear fusion) overcomes these strong forces and also releases power as a result. The power released by an individual nucleus is an extremely small, but vast numbers of nuclei can release substantial amounts of power as confirmed by the energy created by atom reactors (fission) and also by the sunlight (nuclear fusion).


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Thermal power is as result of the movement, and the kinetic energy connected with this movement, of molecules that make up an item or substance. All objects possess thermal energy (even cold ones) due to the fact that they have actually a temperature above absolute zero. Evidence of thermal energy can it is in detected by measuring the temperature of one object.


Although technically incorrect, the word warm is often used to mean thermal energy. In strict scientific terms, over there is a unique difference in between the two. Heat energy involves the kinetic power of the molecules within an object. Warm is the transport of energy in between two objects. Where possible, we have actually tried to continue to be true to this distinctions. However, due to the fact that heat is the more familiar term we often use the to facilitate understanding. 


Sound, mechanical motion, heat, and light room not conveniently classified together kinetic and potential energy. They are evidence of energy.

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 Movementsoundheat, and light provide evidence that energy is present and being used. Sound is developed when we strike something. But does sound carry out work? Yes, sound have the right to move things. Sound waves move the tiny bones in your ear and also shake windows when a according to truck overcome by. Sound waves are likewise evident in the vibrations from playing a radio. 


Our human body is working even when it shows up to it is in still. Breathing, blinking, and also digesting food all need energy. For us to execute these activities, our body burn the power in food. We know this is happening because we feel warm (burning generates thermal power ). Therefore, warmth is proof that power is being used.