College of Wisconsin-Stevens Point > CNR Associated 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 Forms of Energy

The power we sense all about us appears to have actually many forms. Fires burn, rubber bands snap back, flashlights revolve on and also shine, objects fall, and points appear to be hot, cold, or just the ideal temperature. With so a lot going on, how have the right to we number out what creates of power these points and also occasions have? After hundreds of years of monitoring and also trial and error, science has classified power right into two main forms: kinetic power and potential energy. In addition, potential power takes numerous develops of its very own.

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Kinetic power is characterized as the energy of a relocating object. A thrown footround, a speeding automobile, a marathon runner, or a rock falling from a cliff, are examples of objects that have kinetic power.
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Potential power is identified as the power connected via the arrangement of a mechanism of objects that exert pressures on one an additional. Potential energy is stored or released when the setup of the objects and/or the pressures they exert on each other changes in some method. Solution of objects ranging from atoms to planets can be arranged in many kind of methods, causing many forms of potential energy: chemical, elastic, electrical (electromagnetic), gravitational, nuclear, and also thermal power. 

Although potential energy is often referred to as "stored" energy, two misconceptions might aincrease once referred to in this means. First, saying that energy is stored in something might indicate that power is some sort of invisible substance, which it isn't. Second, take into consideration a textbook hosted above a classroom floor. Many type of would certainly say that the textbook has actually potential power stored within it, and it is often convenient to think that only the textbook has actually potential power. However before, the textbook has actually potential power because it is part of a system that consists of the Planet, one in which both exert gravitational pressures on each various other. In various other words, the textbook would certainly not have actually potential power if it were not for the Earth. 

Various Forms of Potential Energy

Chemical Potential Energy 

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The chemical makeup (setup of molecules) of gasoline renders it a great fuel resource. All nonliving and living things, from automobiles to zebras, are made up of molecules. It takes power to make these molecules and also organize them together. The energy stored in molecules is dubbed chemical potential energy. Throughout combustion, bonds are damaged and also recreated creating new assets. The power stored in gasoline is released by burning it (combustion). During burning, chemical bonds are broken and redeveloped (altering gasoline right into bycommodities such as water and also carbon dioxide) releasing power. Tright here are many type of examples of chemical potential energy being converted to kinetic energy to perform work-related. The chemical energy in food is provided by our bodies to move. In a lighted firecracker chemical power is offered to make a loud sound and also to scatter pieces of the firecracker all over.

Elastic Potential Energy

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A stretched rubber band also has the potential to do occupational or adjust things. This create of power is referred to as elastic potential energy. It occurs once an object (such as our skin, a spring, a trampoline, or a rubber band) resists being extended out of form. The elastic potential energy in a rubber band also can be offered to perform work. For instance, toy airplanes fly once a rubber band untwists and also spins a propeller. The elastic potential power in the rubber band was converted right into kinetic power.

Electrical (Electromagnetic) Potential Energy

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Electrical potential power is current once positive and negative electric charges are separated from each various other, as is a battery. When you turn on a machine that is battery-operated, such as a flashlight or a toy, the electrical potential power stored in the battery is converted right into other develops of energy such as sound, mechanical motion, thermal power, and also light. For an electric appliance you plug in, the electric potential power is kept by a spinning generator of a power plant, hydroelectrical dam, or a windmill. A solar cell stores electric potential power comparable to a battery as long as the sun is shining on it.

Gravitational Potential Energy

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When somepoint is lifted, occupational is done on the object against the pull of gravity. This work is converted to a type of potential energy called gravitational potential power. When the item drops towards Earth favor an apple from a tree, gravitational potential energy is converted right into kinetic power.

Nuclear Potential Energy


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Nuclear potential power, or nuclear energy, is the power found in the nuclei of atoms. The prolots in a nucleus exert incredibly solid repulsive pressures on each other due to their positive charge. In turn, the neutrons that consist of a nucleus exert very strong pressures on the protons to save them from flying acomponent. Splitting a huge nucleus (nuclear fission) or combining little nuclei right into a bigger nucleus (nuclear fusion) overcomes these strong forces and releases power as an outcome. The power released by an individual nucleus is incredibly small, yet huge numbers of nuclei have the right to release huge amounts of power as confirmed by the energy produced by nuclear reactors (fission) and also by the sunlight (nuclear fusion).


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Thermal power is due to the motion, and also the kinetic energy associated through this activity, of molecules that make up an item or substance. All objects possess thermal power (even cold ones) considering that they have actually a temperature over absolute zero. Evidence of thermal power deserve to be detected by measuring the temperature of an object.


Although technically incorrect, the word warm is frequently offered to mean thermal power. In strict scientific terms, tright here is a distinct distinction between the two. Thermal power pertains to the kinetic power of the molecules within a things. Heat is the transfer of power between two objects. Wherever possible, we have actually tried to reprimary true to these distinctions. However before, because warm is the more acquainted term we frequently use that to facilitate understanding. 


Sound, mechanical activity, warm, and light are not quickly classified as kinetic and also potential energy. They are evidence of energy.

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 Movementsoundheat, and light carry out proof that power is current and being provided. Sound is developed once we strike somepoint. But does sound do work? Yes, sound can relocate things. Sound waves relocate the tiny bones in your ear and shake windows as soon as a loud truck passes by. Sound waves are likewise apparent in the vibrations from playing a radio. 


Our body is working also as soon as it appears to be still. Breathing, blinking, and also digesting food all call for power. For us to carry out these tasks, our bodies burn the power in food. We recognize this is happening bereason we feel heat (burning geneprices thermal power ). As such, heat is evidence that power is being provided.