What are the Different Types of Energy?

Instructor: Sergey Segal

Sergey has a Masters in Biomedical Engineering and has taught science and mathematics courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Energy is one of the most fundamental concepts in many scientific fields. Learn more about its different types, subsequently testing your knowledge with a quiz.

Energy Defined

Have you ever wondered if there is something in common among objects such as moving cars, turned-on cell phones, and rain drops falling from the sky? Well, there is, and it's that they all possess energy. Without going too much into the mathematics, you can think of energy as the driving force that gives entities the ability to produce change. Let me explain. We all know that cars need to be filled up with fuel to run. But gasoline or any other type of fuel in itself would not make the car move unless it was properly converted into that driving force referred to as energy. Another example is water naturally flowing from a higher altitude to a lower altitude. There is something in these water molecules that makes them move downwards, and again, we refer to it as energy.

We can divide the different types of energy into two categories - energy associated with motion and energy that is stored in entities. Let's take a closer look at some of the main types of energy within these categories.

Energy Associated With Movement

Objects in motion are said to possess kinetic energy. At speeds much lower than the speed of light, it is proportional to the product of the object's mass and the square of its velocity. Thus, if we have bowling balls A and B, both moving at the same velocity, where A weighs 5 kilograms and B weighs 7 kilograms, then B would have more kinetic energy. On the other hand, if A and B both weighed 5 kilograms, but A was moving faster than B, then A would have more kinetic energy.

Another form of energy associated with movement includes electrons traveling within electric circuits until reaching their lowest possible state, referred to as ground. The energy that is derived from these moving electrons is known as electrical energy.

electric_circuit

Thermal energy, which is associated with atomic movements and vibrations, can be felt as heat. In fact, you can even see its manifestation on a very hot metal rod that glows.

glowing_rod

Speaking of glowing objects, radiant energy is another form of energy that is carried by electromagnetic radiation, including visible light. It is associated with movement since light can be conceptualized as elementary particles called photons, which carry this energy.

Energy That Is Stored In Entities

Potential energy is energy that is stored in entities due to their position or configuration.

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