Some Different Kinds of Energy


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Energy can be classified as either stored (potential) energy and working (kinetic) energy. All energy can be measured in “Joules”.


Potential Energy = the energy that an object has as the result of its position or state. Some examples of potential energy include: chemical, elastic, gravitational, magnetic…


Kinetic Energy = the energy that appears in the form of an object’s motion. KE = 1/2mv2. Some examples of kinetic energy include: sound, electrical, light…


Mechanical Energy = kinetic and potential energy (of lifting, bending, stretching or twisting)


For instance, it is possible to calculate the potential energy of an apple that is 2 meters above the head of a businessman. The equation is: Gravitational Potential Energy = mgh. Mass = m. The acceleration due to gravity = 9.8m/s2 and h is the distance above the man’s head.




Gravitational Potential Energy









0.1 kg


9.8 m/s2


2 m



1.96 Joules






Thermal Energy = the total energy of the particles that make up a mass. Thermal energy is internal.


Heat = is a transfer of energy from one part of a substance to another, or from one object to another, because of a difference in temperature. Heat is a form of energy associated with the motion of atoms or molecules and is capable of being transmitted through solid and fluid media by conduction, through fluid media by convection, and through empty space by radiation. Heat is not contained in a mass; an object contains thermal energy.


Light Energy = Sometimes called radiant energy and is visible to the human eye. It is emitted by moving charged particles. Light sometimes behaves like particles, called photons, and at other times like waves.


Chemical Energy = The potential energy held in the covalent bonds between atoms in a molecule. Food is essentially stored potential energy.


Nuclear Energy = energy that is released when the nuclei of atoms are split (fission) or fused together (fusion).


Electrical Energy = energy that runs our appliances etc…


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