When it comes to how scientists break down energy, it’s simple. Energy is the potential to do work. It’s the energy of your car speeding down the highway. Or, it is the energy you use in your body to move. Without energy, no work would happen. And life would not exist.
12 Different Types of Energy With Everyday Examples
Like most things in science, energy is broken down into different types. View 12 types of energy through real-world examples.
Basic Types of Energy
When it comes to energy, it falls into two different categories. Explore the difference and examples of potential and kinetic energy.
Potential Energy Example
When energy is stored in an object, it has the potential to be used. Hence the name, potential energy. Potential energy takes many forms like mechanical, gravitational, elastic, chemical, electric, nuclear, and magnetic potential energy. Think about the air in a balloon when holding the end. The air in the balloon is the potential energy, and it remains potential energy until you let it go.
Kinetic Energy Example
The moment you let the bottom of the balloon go, it turns into kinetic energy. The flying of the balloon around the room is now showing the energy associated with motion or kinetic energy. The different forms of kinetic energy include radiant, thermal, sound, electrical, and mechanical energy. Another type of kinetic energy is a roller coaster coming down a hill.
Kinetic and Potential Types of Energy
Break kinetic and potential energy down into their different forms. Find out what each one is and how it works through real-world examples.
Elastic Energy Example
A rubber band has the potential to stretch and a spring has the potential to be compressed or stretched. Both items have elastic energy. One popular example of elastic energy is a bow. When you pull back on the bowstring and let it go, the elastic energy created from the tension shoots the arrow. It’s the same way with a slingshot.
Gravitational Energy Example
Gravity has taught you, sometimes the hard way, what goes up must come down. Ever wonder why? Gravitational potential energy is to blame. Gravitational energy is the potential energy because of gravity. The potential energy within a book on a shelf is higher than the potential energy of a book on the ground because of gravity. And if you bump the shelf, the book can and will fall.
Magnetic Energy Example
Magnetic fields have potential energy. Therefore, a magnet stays on your refrigerator. Everything has some magnetic energy. However, the higher the magnetic energy, the stronger the attraction. Just try putting a magnet in front of a spoon. The high potential energy in the spoon makes the magnet stick.
Nuclear Energy Example
Nuclear energy typically brings about images of atom bombs and nuclear power plants. While these are examples of nuclear energy, so is nuclear fusion happening within the sun to send us heat. In simple terms, nuclear energy is the energy created when atoms fuse or split. It is used to heat houses or destroy whole landmasses.
Light Energy Example
Light energy is one of the only types of energy seen with the human eye. Because it creates light. Light energy travels in waves and includes examples like a burning candle lighting up a room. Another example is above you right now in the light bulb.
Radiant Energy Example
When you think of radiant energy, don’t think further than the sunlight hitting your face. The sun is the best example of radiant energy. The wave energy from the sun creates heat and light. Other examples of radiant energy include the x-rays that take pictures of your bones when you are hurt.
Sound Energy Example
Sound energy is an easy one because you hear it. When vibrations create sound energy, it goes to your ear and is transformed into the strumming of a guitar or call of your mother’s voice.
Thermal Energy Example
Thermal energy keeps you warm. Also called heat energy, radiant energy gives off heat and has three types, convection, conduction, and radiation. Examples of radiant energy include a cake baking in the oven, heat from an electric heater, and a cup of hot cocoa.
Mechanical Energy Example
When you see motion, mechanical energy is at play. Mechanics work on cars, planes, and bikes for a reason. Because they use mechanical energy to do work. It also uses both kinetic and potential energy. Examples of mechanical energy you see every day include driving a car, riding a bike, and hammering a nail.
Electrical Energy Example
Electrical energy is fun because you easily do this one at home by flipping your light switch on. Boom, your room lights up. Why? Because electrons move along an electrical current to light the bulb when you flip the switch through current electricity. If you rub a balloon on your head, your hair stands up because of static electricity. Just try touching a metal doorknob after that.
Knowing Your Energy
Energy comes in all different kinds of forms. The two basic types include potential and kinetic energy, but they split into other forms. Chemistry and physics are so interesting. Learn more about chemistry by exploring chemical property examples.