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

Section B. 2 Main develops of Energy

The power we feeling all approximately us appears to have plenty of forms. Fires burn, rubber bands snap back, flashlights rotate on and also shine, objects fall, and also things show up to be hot, cold, or just the appropriate temperature. With so lot going on, how deserve to we figure out what forms of power these things and events have? After numerous years the observation and experimentation, science has actually classified power into two main forms: kinetic energy and potential energy. In addition, potential energy takes several creates of that is own.

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Kinetic power is characterized as the power of a relocating object. A thrown football, a speeding automobile, a marathon runner, or a rock falling indigenous a cliff, are examples of objects that have actually kinetic energy.
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Potential power is characterized as the energy associated with the setup of a device of objects that exert forces on one another. Potential power is save or released as soon as the arrangement of the objects and/or the forces they exert on each other alters in some way. Solution of objects varying from atom to planets have the right to be arranged in many ways, result in many forms the potential energy: chemical, elastic, electric (electromagnetic), gravitational, nuclear, and thermal energy. 

Although potential power is often referred to as "stored" energy, two misconceptions may arise when referred to in this way. First, saying that power is stored in other may suggest that energy is some sort of invisible substance, which that isn't. Second, consider a textbook held above a classroom floor. Many would say the the textbook has potential power stored within it, and it is frequently convenient to think that only the textbook has potential energy. However, the textbook has actually potential energy since it is part of a system that has the Earth, one in i m sorry both exert gravitational pressures on every other. In other words, the textbook would not have actually potential energy if that were no for the Earth. 

Various creates of Potential Energy

chemical Potential Energy 

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The chemistry makeup (arrangement that molecules) the gasoline makes it a great fuel source. All nonliving and also living things, from automobiles come zebras, are consisted of of molecules. That takes power to do these molecules and also hold lock together. The power stored in molecules is called chemical potential energy. During combustion, bonds space broken and reformed creating new products. The energy stored in gasoline is exit by burn it (combustion). Throughout combustion, chemistry bonds are broken and reformed (changing gasoline right into byproducts such together water and carbon dioxide) releasing energy. There are numerous examples of chemistry potential energy being converted to kinetic energy to do work. The chemical power in food is used by our bodies to move. In a lighted firecracker chemical power is offered to do a loud sound and to scatter piece of the firecracker every over.

Elastic Potential Energy

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A stretched rubber band has actually the potential come do work or change things. This form of energy is called elastic potential energy. It occurs when an item (such as our skin, a spring, a trampoline, or a rubber band) resists being stretched out that shape. The elastic potential power in a rubber band can be used to do work. Because that example, toy plane fly when a rubber band untwists and spins a propeller. The elastic potential energy in the rubber tape was converted right into kinetic energy.

Electrical (Electromagnetic) Potential Energy

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Electrical potential power is present when hopeful and negative electric charges space separated from each other, together is a battery. When you rotate on a machine that is battery-operated, such together a flashlight or a toy, the electric potential energy stored in the battery is converted right into other develops of energy such together sound, mechanical motion, thermal energy, and light. For an electrical appliance you plug in, the electrical potential energy is kept by a spinning generator that a strength plant, hydroelectric dam, or a windmill. A solar cell stores electrical potential energy comparable to a battery as long as the sun is bright on it.

Gravitational Potential Energy

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When other is lifted, work-related is done on the object versus the pull of gravity. This work is converted to a kind of potential energy referred to as gravitational potential energy. Once the item falls towards earth like one apple indigenous a tree, gravitational potential energy is converted into kinetic energy.

Nuclear Potential Energy


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Nuclear potential energy, or atom energy, is the energy found in the nuclei the atoms. The protons in a cell nucleus exert very strong repulsive pressures on each other due to their positive charge. In turn, the neutron that consist of a cell nucleus exert very solid forces top top the protons to store them from flying apart. Splitting a huge nucleus (nuclear fission) or combining small nuclei into a larger nucleus (nuclear fusion) overcomes these solid forces and releases energy as a result. The power released through an separation, personal, instance nucleus is really small, but vast numbers the nuclei deserve to release large amounts of power as evidenced by the energy developed by nuclear reactors (fission) and also by the sunlight (nuclear fusion).


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


Although technically incorrect, the word heat is regularly used to typical thermal energy. In strict scientific terms, over there is a distinct difference in between the two. Thermal energy concerns the kinetic energy of the molecules in ~ an object. Warmth is the deliver of energy between two objects. Wherever possible, we have actually tried to remain true to these distinctions. However, because heat is the more familiar term we regularly use that to facilitate understanding. 


Sound, mechanically motion, heat, and also light are not quickly classified together kinetic and also 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 us strike something. However does sound carry out work? Yes, sound can move things. Sound waves move the small bones in her ear and shake windows as soon as a according to truck passes by. Sound waves are likewise evident in the vibrations from play a radio. 


Our human body is working also when it appears to it is in still. Breathing, blinking, and also digesting food all require energy. For united state to execute these activities, our bodies burn the energy in food. We recognize this is happening due to the fact that we feel heat (burning generates thermal energy ). Therefore, warm is proof that energy is being used.