University the Wisconsin-Stevens allude > CNR linked Programs > Wisconsin K-12 Energy education Program > energy Education: Concepts and also Practices > section B: two Main forms of Energy
​ Unit 1: What is Energy?

Section B. Two Main develops of Energy

The energy we feeling all roughly us appears to have plenty of forms. Fires burn, rubber bands snap back, flashlights revolve on and also shine, objects fall, and things appear to it is in hot, cold, or simply the appropriate temperature. V so much going on, how deserve to we number out what creates of power these things and events have? After hundreds of years that observation and experimentation, science has classified energy into two main forms: kinetic energy and also potential energy. In addition, potential energy takes several creates of its own.

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Kinetic power is characterized as the power of a moving object. A thrown football, a speeding automobile, a marathon runner, or a absent falling indigenous a cliff, are examples of objects that have actually kinetic energy.
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Potential power is defined as the energy linked with the arrangement of a mechanism of objects the exert pressures on one another. Potential energy is stored or released as soon as the setup of the objects and/or the pressures they exert on every other transforms in part way. Equipment of objects varying from atoms to planets deserve to be i ordered it in countless ways, result in plenty of forms of potential energy: chemical, elastic, electric (electromagnetic), gravitational, nuclear, and also thermal energy. 

Although potential energy is frequently referred to as "stored" energy, 2 misconceptions may arise as soon as referred to in this way. First, speak that energy is stored in something may indicate that power is some type of invisible substance, which that isn't. Second, think about a textbook held over a classroom floor. Plenty of would say the the textbook has actually potential power stored in ~ it, and also it is regularly convenient to think that only the textbook has potential energy. However, the textbook has actually potential energy since it is component of a device that contains the Earth, one in i m sorry both exert gravitational pressures on each other. In various other words, the textbook would not have potential energy if the were no for the Earth. 

Various forms of Potential Energy

chemical Potential Energy 

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The chemistry makeup (arrangement of molecules) the gasoline provides it a good fuel source. All nonliving and living things, from automobiles come zebras, are consisted of of molecules. The takes power to do these molecules and hold lock together. The energy stored in molecule is dubbed chemical potential energy. During combustion, bonds room broken and also reformed creating brand-new products. The energy stored in petrol is exit by burning it (combustion). Throughout combustion, chemical bonds are broken and reformed (changing gasoline into byproducts such as water and also carbon dioxide) releasing energy. There are plenty of examples of chemical potential power being convert to kinetic energy to do work. The chemical power in food is provided by our body to move. In a lighted firecracker chemical power is used to make a according to sound and to scatter pieces of the firecracker every over.

Elastic Potential Energy

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A extended rubber band has actually the potential to do occupational or change things. This kind of power is dubbed elastic potential energy. It wake up when things (such together our skin, a spring, a trampoline, or a rubber band) resists being extended out of shape. The elastic potential energy in a rubber band deserve to be supplied to perform work. Because that example, toy airplane fly when a rubber tape untwists and spins a propeller. The elastic potential energy in the rubber band was converted right into kinetic energy.

Electrical (Electromagnetic) Potential Energy

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Electrical potential energy is current when positive and an unfavorable electric charges are separated from every other, together is a battery. Once you revolve on a device that is battery-operated, such as a flashlight or a toy, the electric potential energy stored in the battery is converted into other creates of power such together sound, mechanical motion, heat energy, and also light. For an electrical appliance girlfriend plug in, the electrical potential power is kept by a rotate generator of a strength plant, hydroelectric dam, or a windmill. A solar cabinet stores electrical potential energy similar to a battery as lengthy as the sunlight is glowing on it.

Gravitational Potential Energy

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When other is lifted, work is excellent on the object versus the pull of gravity. This occupational is converted to a type of potential energy called gravitational potential energy. When the item drops towards planet like one apple from a tree, gravitational potential power 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 as result of their hopeful charge. In turn, the neutrons that comprise a cell core exert very solid forces ~ above the proton to save them from flying apart. Separating a huge nucleus (nuclear fission) or combining small nuclei right into a larger nucleus (nuclear fusion) overcomes these strong forces and releases energy as a result. The power released by an individual nucleus is an extremely small, but vast numbers that nuclei deserve to release large amounts of energy as shown by the energy developed by atom reactors (fission) and also by the sun (nuclear fusion).


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Thermal energy is because of the movement, and also the kinetic energy associated with this movement, that molecules that make up an item or substance. All objects possess thermal energy (even cold ones) since they have actually a temperature above absolute zero. Evidence of thermal power can it is in detected by measure the temperature of an object.


Although technically incorrect, the word warm is regularly used to mean thermal energy. In strict scientific terms, over there is a unique difference in between the two. Heat energy involves the kinetic energy of the molecules within an object. Heat is the transport of energy between two objects. Wherever possible, we have tried to stay true to this distinctions. However, since heat is the an ext familiar ax we regularly use the to facilitate understanding. 


Sound, mechanically motion, heat, and light are not conveniently classified as kinetic and potential energy. They are evidence of energy.

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 Movementsoundheat, and light provide evidence that power is present and being used. Sound is produced when us strike something. But does sound do work? Yes, sound can move things. Sound waves relocate the tiny bones in her ear and shake windows when a loud truck overcome by. Sound tide are also evident in the vibrations from play a radio. 


Our body is working even when it shows up to be still. Breathing, blinking, and also digesting food all call for energy. For united state to carry out these activities, our bodies burn the power in food. We know this is happening because we feel heat (burning generates thermal energy ). Therefore, warmth is evidence that energy is gift used.