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Examples of Potential Energy

Potential energy is mechanical or stored energy from an object that comes from factors such as its position relative to others, internal stress, electric charge or its condition rather than motion. This object has the capability of producing energy as these conditions change – this energy could be kinetic energychemical energyradiant energythermal energy or sound energy.

Potential Kinetic Energy

  • A coiled spring
  • Wheels on roller skates before someone skates
  • An archer’s bow with the string pulled back
  • A raised weight
  • Water that is behind a dam
  • A snow pack (potential avalanche)
  • A quarterback’s arm before throwing a pass
  • A stretched rubber band
  • A car that is parked at the top of a hill
  • An unopened carbonated drink
  • A yoyo before it is released
  • River water at the top of a waterfall
  • Still air (potential wind)
  • An airplane idling on the runway
  • A flywheel without any wind to turn it
  • Bullets before they are fired from a gun
  • A satellite before it is launched and placed into an orbit
  • A book on a table before it falls (gravitational potential energy)
  • A child at the top of a slide
  • Soccer balls before players kick them
  • A slinky at the top of the stairs
  • Ripe fruit before it falls (gravitational potential energy)
  • A pool stick before you move it
  • A Frisbee before it is thrown in to the air
  • A Ferris wheel before it starts turning

Potential Chemical Energy

  • A charged battery
  • Explosives
  • Green leaves before the sun shines on them (potential photosynthesis)
  • Gasoline before it is ignited
  • Fireworks before they are launched
  • Wood in a fireplace before it burns
  • Iron before it gets wet and rusts
  • Fruit juice before it ferments
  • The wick in a candle

Potential Radiant Energy

  • An incandescent light bulb that is turned off
  • Your car’s headlights before they are turned on
  • A radio tower that is not working
  • A cell phone that is turned off
  • Solar cells at night
  • A black light turned off
  • A television before it is turned on (emits heat)
  • Discs in the brakes of your car before you brake
  • Your radiant heating system in the summer

Potential Thermal Energy

  • A swimming pool of water before it is heated
  • Geysers before they erupt
  • A mug before you fill it with hot chocolate
  • An oven before it is turned on
  • Dead organic matter (potential geothermal energy)

Potential Sound Energy

  • A flute before someone plays it
  • A teapot before the water boils
  • Your fingers before you snap them
  • A tuning fork before it is struck
  • A whistle before it is blown
  • An owl before it hoots
  • A balloon before it pops
  • A jet flying faster than the speed of sound (sonic boom)

Potential Energy in a Human Body

  • Your jaw before you chew food
  • The energy stored as fat in the body
  • Your leg before you move it
  • Digestive enzymes in your stomach before you eat
  • The brain before you think (electrical energy)
  • Your hands before you clap them together (sound energy)

These examples of potential energy show the wide variety of types of energy that can be created from an object.


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