Difference Between Potential vs Kinetic Energy

Difference Between Potential vs Kinetic Energy

Can you imagine anything that does not involve energy? Not likely! Even thinking itself requires some of it, and so does every other thing you can think of. This concept is very vast, but somehow, scholars have managed to define it as the ability to do work. Because it’s such a vast topic, this ability to do work has been categorized to make it more comprehensive.

In this post, our focus will be on the difference between kinetic and potential energy. These are the two main types of energy, and we will discuss their definitions, unique properties, and how they compare to each other.

Definition of Potential Energy

Potential energy is defined as energy stored in a material given to its resting position or state. Another straight-to-the-point definition has it that it is “energy at rest” or “the potential to do work.”

It is worth keeping in mind that the position of the object plays a notable role in how this concept comes into play. Take a spring metal, for instance. In a neutral state, it does nothing, but when it is either compressed or stretched, it releases some force that can get some work done.

There are two main types of potential energy. They include:

  • Gravitational:

When an object is held at a height, it is said to have a potential force of gravity stored in it. If it should be released from that height and comes plunging down, then the stored force of gravity in it starts to manifest as it pulls it down towards the center of the earth. The intensity of this form of ability to do work depends on the distance between the object and the ground and its weight.

  • Elastic:

The instance given above about a spring is a typical example that falls under this category. It is defined as the ability of an object to be stretched or compressed. Other examples include trampolines, bungee cords, elastic bands, and so on.

Definition of Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy is defined as the energy a body has when it is in motion. What this means is that this form of energy is the opposite of the former. So, to answer the question – what is the difference between potential and kinetic energy? – you can simply say that the former is based on rest while the latter is based on motion.

This type of energy can be expressed in five different forms.

  • Radiant:

This refers to the energy that travels by waves and particles as created by electromagnetic waves and experienced in the form of heat.

  • Thermal:

In this case, the energy travels based on the level of activity generated by atoms and molecules of a substance initiated by heat.

  • Mechanical:

This is the most visual form compared to others. It is associated with the mechanical movement of objects like wind energy harnessed by a windmill.

  • Electrical:

This refers to the flow of negatively-charged electrons around a circuit. It is experienced in the form of electricity.

  • Sound:

This has to do with a wave of movement in the form f vibrations initiated by sound through a medium like air.

Main Differences Between Potential vs Kinetic Energy

In comparing potential vs kinetic energy, here are the facts you need to take note of that highlights the key differences between these two concepts.

Basis of ComparisonPotentialKinetic
DefinitionEnergy stored in a substance by virtue of its position or stateEnergy of a body based on its motion
Determining factorsHeight and massSpeed, velocity, and mass
Equationmgh, where m = mass, g = gravity and h = height0.5 mv^2, where m = mass and v = speed

Difference Between Potential and Kinetic Energy: Conclusion

In conclusion, comparing kinetic vs potential energy spans over a number of factors, a lot of which were not discussed in this post. But with the key factors we have shared, you should have the basic knowledge of these concepts. The former refers to a state of motion while the latter refers to a state of rest. The former can be transferred, but not that latter.