potential energy



We explain what potential energy is, the different types that exist and some examples.

Some graphic examples of potential energy.

What is potential energy?

Potential energy is a type ofmechanical energy that is associated with the relationship between a body and a field or system of forces external (if the object is located in the field) or internal (if the field is within the object). It is about energy in power, that is, it can be immediately transformed into other forms of energy, such as kinetics, for example.

The potential energy of a system, whatever its origin, represents the energy "stored" in it given its configuration or position and, therefore, to measure it, a reference point or configuration must be taken into account.

The concept of potential energy is useful for both conservative (which tend to preserve energy) and dissipative (which tend to lose) physical systems. Potential energy and Kinetic energy of a system constitute its mechanical energy:

Potential energy + kinetic energy = total mechanical energy

This type of energy is studied not only by classical mechanics, but also relativistic mechanics and quantum physics (which applies it to systems ofparticles). Potential energy is classified according to the forces that give it origin, such as gravitational, elastic, chemical, among others.

Gravitational potential energy

Gravitational potential energy is defined as the energy that a massive body possesses when immersed in a gravitational field. Gravitational fields are created around objects with masses very large (for example, masses of the planets and the Sun).

For example, a roller coaster car has a maximum potential energy at its highest position due to being immersed in the gravitational field of the roller coaster. Earth. Once the wagon is dropped, losing height, the potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy.

Elastic potential energy

Elastic potential energy has to do with the property of elasticity of the matter, which is the tendency to regain its original shape after being subjected to deformation forces greater than its resistance. A clear example of elastic energy is that of a spring that stretches or contracts as a result of an external force and returns to its original position once that force is no longer applied.

Another example is the bow and arrow system, in which the elastic potential energy reaches its maximum value as the bow is drawn as the elastic fiber is pulled, slightly bending the wood, but still at zero speed. In the next instant, the potential energy becomes kinetic and the arrow is thrown at full speed forward.

Chemical potential energy

Engine combustion converts chemical potential energy into kinetic energy.

Chemical potential energy is the energy stored in chemical links of theatoms Ymolecules. An example is glucose in our body, which stores chemical potential energy that our body (by means of a process that it's calledmetabolism) transforms into heat energy to maintain temperature bodily.

The same goes for fossil fuel (hydrocarbons) in a car's gas tank. The chemical potential energy Stored in the chemical bonds of gasoline, it is converted into mechanical energy to start the vehicle.

Electrostatic potential energy

In the electricity also applies the concept of potential energy, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as kinetics, thermal or light, given the enormous versatility of the electromagnetism.

In this case, the energy results from the field of electric forces produced by the particles charged.

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