Types of Energy

By: Nathaniel Parson

What is Energy?

Energy is the ability to do work or cause change. The following are examples of different forms of energy.

Mechanical Energy

What is Mechanical Energy?

Mechanical Energy is energy associated with the position and motion of an object. This energy is the sum of its potential and kinetic energy.
An example of mechanical energy is a quarterback throwing a football. The higher the football is thrown, the greater its potential energy. The faster it is thrown, the greater its kinetic energy. The sum of the two gives you the football's mechanical energy.
Another example of mechanical energy is a roller-coaster. The higher the cars go, the greater its potential energy. The faster the coaster goes, the greater its kinetic energy. When added, you find the total mechanical energy of the roller-coaster.

Thermal Energy

What is Thermal Energy?

Thermal Energy has to do with particles of objects. To find an objects thermal energy, you add the potential and kinetic energy within its particles.
An example of thermal energy is flowing lava. Although the lava moves quite lethargically, the lava's particles are actually moving quite quickly, which means that it has a high amount of thermal energy,
Another example of thermal energy is what causes ice cream to melt. When there are fast moving particles in warm air, they cause the particles in the ice cream to move fast too. The kinetic energy rises, so the thermal energy does too.

Electrical Energy

What is Electrical Energy?

Electrical Energy also has to do with the particles of objects. But an objects electric energy is the amount of energy in all the electric charges within the object.
An example of electrical energy is the shock you get from a metal doorknob. The electrical energy in the doorknob is potential energy because the electrical charge is stored in the knob.
Another example of electrical energy is lightning. Since the electrical charge inside the lightning is moving, this is a form of kinetic energy as well.

Chemical Energy

What is Chemical Energy?

Chemical Energy has to do with the potential energy stored in the chemical bonds of that hold chemical compounds together.
An example of chemical energy is the energy stored in food, such as grapes. Because it is stored within the grapes, it is potential energy. When these bonds break, new compounds may form, and chemical energy released to give you energy.
Another example of chemical energy is a match. There is lots of potential energy in the match, and when these chemical bonds break, chemical energy is released, thus giving off that spark that creates a fire.

Nuclear Energy

What is Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear Energy is a type of potential energy that is stored in the nucleus of an atom. It is released during a nuclear reaction.
An example of nuclear energy is a nuclear power plant. Now this may seem obvious, but this process releases nuclear energy used to power entire cities. When the nucleus of atom splits, nuclear fission occurs, and the plants use this this released energy as electricity.
Another example of nuclear energy happens on the sun all the time called nuclear fusion (note the difference between fission and fusion). This occurs when the nuclei of atoms fuse together. This happens on the sun, and creates massive explosions and bursts of energy in space on the sun's surface.

Electromagnetic Energy

What is Electromagnetic Energy?

Electromagnetic energy is simply energy that travels in waves. These waves have both electrical and magnetic properties.
An example of electromagnetic energy is sunlight. Sunlight travels in waves, and when it reaches the Earth, it is used in solar panels that use that energy to fuel homes and buildings and supply the needed electricity.
Another example of electromagnetic energy is used in a microwave-oven. When turned on, the microwave uses electromagnetic waves as energy to quicken the motion of the particles inside your food. This increases its energy, therefore making it warmer, and giving you a delicious meal to eat.