Elastic potential energy

Elastic potential energy

Elastic potential energy is a specific type of energy stored in deformable objects, such as springs and elastic bands, when they are stretched or compressed.

This energy is stored in the deformable object because the atoms that make up the material push each other to return to the natural position. When the object returns to its original shape, this energy is released and the atoms stop pushing against each other. This concept of energy storage and release is essential in numerous practical applications.

Therefore, this type of energy is due to the ability of these objects to recover their original shape after being deformed.

What happens inside elastic materials?

Shock absorber of a motorcycleWhen we compress a material, such as a spring, at the atomic level changes occur in the configuration of the atoms or molecules that make up that material.

Imagine a spring in its natural state, not deformed. In this state, the atoms or molecules of the material are arranged in a balanced manner and in an equilibrium position. When you apply a force to compress the spring, you are putting pressure on the particles of the material, which causes deformation.

At the atomic level, the compression of material implies that atoms or molecules move closer together. This can lead to changes in the interatomic forces and structure of the material. By compressing the material, the atoms move closer together, which can affect the bonding strengths and arrangement of the atoms.

Hooke's law: calculation formula

Hooke's law, formulated by British scientist Robert Hooke, is crucial to understanding this phenomenon. Using this law, it can be established that the force necessary to stretch or compress a spring is directly proportional to the distance it is deformed.

When we apply a force to stretch or compress a spring, it experiences a deformation that is measured in terms of elongation or compression.


Hooke's law states that force is directly proportional to the elongation or compression of the spring, according to the mathematical formula F = k * x, where F is the applied force, k is the elastic constant of the spring and x is the elongation or compression. This linear relationship indicates that, as the deformation increases, the force required also increases proportionally.

Elastic potential energy (EPE) is calculated using the formula EPE = 0.5 * k * x^2, where EPE is the elastic potential energy, k is the elastic constant, and x is the strain.

Examples of elastic potential energy

Toys and entertainment

Elastic potential energy is found in many toys and entertainment devices. For example, toy launchers, such as toy guns and catapults, use springs to store elastic potential energy. When the spring is released, the stored energy is converted into kinetic energy, launching the toy or projectile.


In the sporting field, there are numerous pieces of equipment that apply this principle such as bows and crossbows. Bows store elastic potential energy when they are drawn and release this energy when the bowstring is released, propelling the arrow toward its target.

Shock absorbers

Vehicle design uses shock absorbers and suspension systems in vehicles that utilize the ability of some materials to release energy in a controlled manner, providing a smooth and safe ride.

Publication Date: March 7, 2024
Last Revision: March 7, 2024