Potential Energy Examples

Potential Energy
Potential energy is almost exactly what its name implies. It's the energy that an object or organism has, but isn't yet using. In other words, it has the potential to use it! This energy comes from conditions such as the object's position in relation to other objects, its level of internal stress, the object's electrical charge, or its state. The object with potential energy has the ability to transfer that energy into other forms of energy as the factors change. After transferring, the energy could then be kinetic, chemical, radiant, thermal, or sound energy.
Examples of Potential Energy:

1. Providing the Outlet for Potential Energy

A spring sitting by itself on a kitchen countertop isn't exhibiting its potential energy. But as soon as that spring is coiled and prior to its release, that is when it is at its maximum for potential energy. The same is true of a bow and arrow. Sitting still, the bow isn't demonstrating its potential energy, but as soon as the archer pulls the bow back, it is then exhibiting potential energy.

2. Chemical Potential Energy

Potential energy can take the form of chemical energy, such as when a battery is charged but not in use yet or explosives or fireworks before they are activated by their fuses. Gasoline that hasn't yet been ignited, either by an external flame source or within a mechanical system due to spark plugs, is demonstrating potential energy.

3. Potential Energy in Nature

Plants can exhibit chemical potential energy when they are not in direct contact with sunlight and therefore aren't generating sugars through photosynthesis. Forces of water can often demonstrate potential energy, such as when geysers are about to erupt or when a dam holds back the water. River water can exhibit potential energy when they reach the edge of a waterfall and have yet to fall.

4. Potential Energy in the Home

Potential energy is all around us as we go about our day-to-day tasks. In the home, a light bulb that isn't on has potential energy, while a television that is off does as well. Ovens that are not turned on are displaying thermal potential energy. Solar cells on roofs or charging devices that are not absorbing sunlight have radiant potential energy.

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