5. Potential and Kinetic Energy

Potential and Kinetic Energy Explained

Energy is a fascinating concept. It can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be altered. Whenever you use or store energy, you deal with potential or kinetic energy. Read on as we discuss these two energy forms in greater detail and explore the relationship between them.

What Is Potential and Kinetic Energy and What Are Their Differences?

You need energy to do any work, which is why the ability to do any work is energy.   

Read that again.  

Potential and kinetic energy are two forms of energy that can be converted into each other. Potential energy can be converted to kinetic energy and vice versa.   

Stored Energy | Kinetic and Potential Compared - Light Power image

Potential energy is the stored energy in any object or system by virtue of its position or arrangement of parts. However, it isn’t affected by the environment outside of the object or system, such as air or height.   

On the other hand, kinetic energy is the energy of an object or a system’s particles in motion. Contrary to potential energy, the kinetic energy of an object is relative to other stationary and moving objects present in its immediate environment. For instance, the kinetic energy of the object will be higher if the object is placed at a greater height.  

Potential energy isn’t transferrable and it depends on the height or distance and mass of the object. Kinetic energy can be transferred from one moving object to another (vibration and rotation) and is dependent on an object’s speed or velocity and mass.  

Let’s explain P.E and K.E with the help of an example.  

Imagine you have a hammer in your hand. When you raise the hammer higher, it’ll have potential energy. But as you drop the hammer downwards to bang on a table’s surface, it’ll have kinetic energy.  

There are three interesting things you should note here.   

First, the raised hammer has more potential energy since it has the potential to go higher or lower. Second, when you hit the hammer on the table, the stored potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as the hammer is falling. (It’s the falling hammer that has kinetic energy.) Third, as soon as the hammer hits the table, the energy changes. The stationary hammer then has stored energy in the form of potential energy.  

As this example demonstrates, energy is neither destroyed nor lost during the whole process – it’s only altered from one form to another, proving the law of conservation of energy.

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