Examples of Potential Energy

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Last updated on September 30th, 2019 at 03:27 pm

Potential energy of a body is the energy that it possesses due to its position with respect to other objects. It could also be due to stresses within itself, its electric charge, or other factors. You perform some amount of work to change the position, configuration, etc. of a body and this energy is stored as potential energy within that body. Therefore, potential energy, work done, and forces are closely associated. For example, the work done against the gravitational force is called the Gravitational potential energy; the work done against the elastic force is called the elastic potential energy.

We all are most familiar with these two types of potential energy. Moreover, there are examples of electrostatic potential energy, nuclear potential energy, inter-molecular potential energy, and chemical potential energy as well. Thermal energy is a little complicated as it contains both potential and kinetic energy.

Below we mention 10 Examples of Potential Energy.

10 Examples of Potential Energy

  1. Gravitational Potential Energy: If you lift a mass M at a height of h from a reference plane, you perform Mgh amount of work against the gravitational force. This amount of energy is stored as gravitational potential energy within the body.
    • To produce hydro-electricity, we store water at a relatively high position. This stored water possesses a tremendous amount of potential energy due to its mass and height. When released, it can drive turbines to produce electricity.
    • A rock sitting at the top of a hill possesses gravitational potential energy. When it falls, the potential energy converts into kinetic energy. Related Content: 10 Examples of Gravitational Force.
  2. Elastic Potential Energy: Energy stored in a compressed or elongated spring is an example of elastic potential energy. The energy associated with such configuration can be measured by the formula \frac{1}{2}Kx^2 where K is the spring constant, and x is the displacement from the equilibrium position.
    • Bow and arrow is another application of elastic potential energy. Bow acquires potential energy when it is deformed under tension.
  3. Electrostatic Potential Energy: The work required to move a charge particle q against an electrostatic force produced by another charge Q is \frac{Qq}{4\pi \epsilon_0 r}.
    • Ionic bonding in NaCl, working of papercraft glue are all based on electrostatic potential energy.
    • Lightning results when the electrostatic potential energy between the negative charge in the clouds and the positive charge on the surface of the earth becomes significant enough to break the insulation caused by the atmosphere. Similar Post: 10 Examples of Electric Force.
  4. Magnetic potential energy: The magnetic needle has its lowest magnetic potential energy when aligned along the earth’s magnetic north and south poles. If we rotate the needle, it returns to its initial position. Similar Post: 10 Examples of Magnetic Force.
  5. Nuclear potential energy: The energy that drives the Sun is an example of nuclear potential energy. In nuclear fission and fusion reactions, we convert this type of potential energy into kinetic, heat, sound, and electromagnetic energy simultaneously.
  6. Intermolecular potential energy: Potential energy associated with intermolecular forces such as hydrogen bonding, ionic bonding, van der Walls forces are called intermolecular potential energy. Hydrogen bonding is responsible for the very high boiling point of water.
  7. Chemical potential energy: This type of potential energy is related to the structural arrangement of atoms, molecules, and their bonding.
    • Green plants transform solar energy into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis.
    • In a battery, we store energy as chemical potential energy.

Similar Post: 10 Examples of Kinetic Energy.