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Forms of Energy: From Electric to Nuclear

We need energy to power our vehicles, our homes, and even our bodies. It enables us to do various forms of work, and it is vital for sustaining our technological society. Energy comes in many different forms and is generated in many different ways. Understanding these forms is key to knowing how energy works and can be generated for future use.

Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy is related to the motion of an object. Simply put, it is the amount of energy that is necessary to take an object from being at rest to a stated measurement of velocity. Every movement that you see occurs as a result of kinetic energy. Even your typing on your computer keyboard is a manifestation of kinetic energy.

Potential Energy

Potential energy refers to the energy that an object stores at a given position. Potential energy can be measured as gravitational potential energy, or the energy an item stores when suspended in the air. It can also possess elastic potential energy, which results from stretching an item to a position and holding it. When movement begins, potential energy is transmitted into kinetic energy.

Thermal Energy

Heat is also known as thermal energy. The heat comes from the movement of particles within the heated object. When a heated object is placed against a cooler item, this thermal energy is transferred and warms the cooler object to a higher temperature. Fire is a common generator of thermal energy, but chemical reactions can create thermal energy as well.

Chemical Energy

Chemical energy is released during reactions when chemical bonds change. As atoms move from one bond to another, energy is released. Chemical reactions can produce thermal energy, electrical energy, and other forms of energy. In many cases, chemical energy is explosive: Combine certain chemicals and you may end up with an explosion.

  • Kinds of Energy: Chemical Energy: Learn the basics about chemical energy on this useful resource page.
  • Q&A: Chemical Energy: On this page from the University of Illinois, several questions about chemical energy are answered and examples of chemical energy experiments are given.
  • Reaction Action: This fun game will help players understand how chemical energy works.

Electrical Energy

Electrical energy is absorbed and transmitted by electrical circuits. A circuit must be complete for the electrical energy to pass through it and accomplish a prescribed job. Electrical energy results from the flow of an electric charge and produces electricity. Such electricity can be used to power a wide variety of machines and other things.

Electrochemical Energy

Electrochemical energy is the application of chemistry to generate electrical energy. Various chemical reactions in such things as batteries are examples of electrochemical energy generation, for electricity is created by the reactions. Today, electrochemical energy is an important field of study. Creating better batteries and other storage and transmission means of energy will be important for creating a more sustainable world.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the energy generated by the sun. It is accessed through a variety of means, such as photovoltaic cells that convert solar rays into electricity. Solar energy is also used to produce heat in such things as solar water heaters. It is a potentially unlimited source of energy, and our ability to access and use it increases every year.

Sound Energy

Sound energy is produced by the vibrations of various forms of matter. It is then transmitted through sound waves that can travel through media including water and air. Today, many researchers are coming up with creative ways of harnessing sound energy. In many cases, sound energy principles are actually applied to reduce noise levels by creating materials that will absorb sound waves.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is generated by splitting or fusing the nuclei of atoms. The former, nuclear fission, is the most common way nuclear energy is generated. The latter, nuclear fusion, has proved much harder for people to do. Producing nuclear energy creates radioactive waste, which must be properly stored to keep from polluting the planet.

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