University the Wisconsin-Stevens allude > CNR connected Programs > Wisconsin K-12 Energy education and learning Program > power Education: Concepts and Practices > section B: 2 Main develops of Energy
​ Unit 1: What is Energy?

Section B. Two Main creates of Energy

The energy we feeling all around us seems to have many forms. Fires burn, rubber bands snap back, flashlights turn on and also shine, objects fall, and things appear to be hot, cold, or just the appropriate temperature. With so much going on, how have the right to we figure out what forms of energy these things and also events have? After numerous years that observation and experimentation, science has classified power into two main forms: kinetic energy and potential energy. In addition, potential energy takes several creates of the own.

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Kinetic power is identified as the power 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 arrangement of a device of objects that exert forces on one another. Potential energy is save or released as soon as the arrangement of the objects and/or the pressures they exert on every other transforms in part way. Systems of objects ranging from atom to planets deserve to be i ordered it in plenty of ways, resulting 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, 2 misconceptions may arise when referred come in this way. First, saying that power is stored in miscellaneous may suggest that energy is some type of invisible substance, which the isn't. Second, take into consideration a textbook held above a great floor. Many would say that the textbook has potential energy stored in ~ it, and it is regularly convenient come think that only the textbook has actually potential energy. However, the textbook has actually potential energy because it is component of a system that contains the Earth, one in i m sorry both exert gravitational forces on each other. In other words, the textbook would not have potential power if it were not for the Earth. 

Various forms of Potential Energy

chemical Potential Energy 

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The chemistry makeup (arrangement that molecules) the gasoline provides it a an excellent fuel source. Every nonliving and living things, native automobiles come zebras, are made up of molecules. That takes power to make these molecules and also hold castle together. The power stored in molecule is referred to as chemical potential energy. During combustion, bonds room broken and also reformed creating brand-new products. The energy stored in gasoline is exit by burn it (combustion). Throughout combustion, chemistry bonds space broken and also reformed (changing gasoline into byproducts such together water and carbon dioxide) publication energy. There are numerous examples of chemistry potential power being convert to kinetic energy to do work. The chemical power in food is offered by our body to move. In a lighted firecracker chemical power is used to do a according to sound and also to scatter piece of the firecracker all over.

Elastic Potential Energy

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A extended rubber band has actually the potential to do job-related or change things. This type of power is dubbed elastic potential energy. It wake up when an item (such as our skin, a spring, a trampoline, or a rubber band) resists being extended out that shape. The elastic potential power in a rubber band have the right to be used to carry out work. For example, toy plane fly once a rubber tape untwists and also spins a propeller. The elastic potential energy in the rubber tape was converted into kinetic energy.

Electrical (Electromagnetic) Potential Energy

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Electrical potential energy is current when optimistic and an adverse electric charges room separated from each other, together is a battery. As soon as you revolve on a machine that is battery-operated, such together a flashlight or a toy, the electric potential power stored in the battery is converted into other forms of power such together sound, mechanical motion, thermal energy, and also light. For an electric appliance friend plug in, the electrical potential energy is maintained by a spinning generator of a strength plant, hydroelectric dam, or a windmill. A solar cabinet stores electric potential energy comparable to a battery as lengthy as the sunlight is shining 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 job-related is converted to a kind of potential energy called gravitational potential energy. As soon as the item drops towards earth like one apple indigenous a tree, gravitational potential power is converted into kinetic energy.

Nuclear Potential Energy


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Nuclear potential energy, or atom energy, is the energy uncovered in the nuclei of atoms. The protons in a nucleus exert very solid repulsive pressures on each other because of their confident charge. In turn, the neutrons that make up a cell nucleus exert very strong forces top top the protons to save them from paris apart. Splitting a big nucleus (nuclear fission) or combining tiny nuclei into a bigger nucleus (nuclear fusion) overcomes these solid forces and also releases power as a result. The energy released through an separation, personal, instance nucleus is really small, but vast numbers of nuclei deserve to release large amounts of energy as confirmed by the energy created by atom reactors (fission) and by the sun (nuclear fusion).


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Thermal energy is as result of the movement, and also the kinetic energy associated with this movement, of molecules that make up an object or substance. Every 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 measuring the temperature of an object.


Although technically incorrect, the word warm is regularly used to typical thermal energy. In strict scientific terms, there is a unique difference between the two. Heat energy concerns the kinetic power of the molecules in ~ an object. Warm is the transport of energy between two objects. Wherever possible, we have tried to continue to be true to this distinctions. However, because heat is the an ext familiar hatchet we regularly use the to facilitate understanding. 


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

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 Movementsoundheat, and light provide proof that energy is present and also being used. Sound is developed when us strike something. Yet does sound execute work? Yes, sound can move things. Sound waves relocate the small bones in her ear and also shake windows when a according to truck overcome by. Sound waves are also evident in the vibrations from playing a radio. 


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