Types of Potential Energy

Types of potential energy

The concept of potential energy refers to the energy stored in an object due to its position in a force field. It may also be due to the configuration of its parts.

Mechanical energy is the sum the this energy and the kinetic energy of a body.

Due to its nature, this energy can be transformed into another type of energy.

Potential energy includes many types of energy. For instance: spring elastic, electrical, electrostatic, and chemical. We explain them in more detail below.

Gravitational Potential Energy

This kind of energy is that an object gains by the gravitational field of another object. They are generally very large bodies such as Earth.

 This energy is directly proportional to the mass of the object and the size of the mass attracted. The magnitude of the attracted mass creates the acceleration of gravity. This value is approximately 9.8 m / s² on the Earth's surface.

This energy is equivalent to the energy necessary to position an object at a certain height.

For an object with mass m, at height h, the following expression applies to the potential energy of the object:

E  = m·g·h

Where E is the potential energy in joules (J), m is the mass in kg, h is the height in m, and g is the acceleration of fall in m / s² (9.81 m / s²).

The formula of the magnetic potential energy is:

Types of potential energy


An example of this type is a roller coaster.

When the car is on the top, its energy is mostly potential. It hardly has kinetic energy. At the lowest points, the kinetic and potential energies have been reversed.

Elastic Potential Energy

Elastic potential energy is energy stored in a body's ability to return to its natural position. This form of energy is also called spring energy or potential elastic energy.

Elasticity is a property of certain materials. After those materials are deformed, stretched, or compressed from their initial position, they can regain their original state.

A linear ideal spring with spring constant k that is drawn or pushed has an increase in spring energy of:

Electric Potential Energy

This form of potential energy is energy that results from the conservative forces of Coulomb. This energy is associated with the configuration of various point loads in a defined system.

It can also be called electrostatic potential energy.

An object can have electrical potential energy due to two main elements:

  1. Its own electrical charge

  2. Its position relative to other electrically charged objects.

 Types of potential energy

Chemical Potential Energy

Chemical bonds are capable of storing potential energy. Chemical potential energy is related to the structural arrangement of atoms or molecules. This arrangement can be the result of chemical bonds within a molecule or in another way.

Chemical energy can be transformed into other forms of energy through a chemical reaction.

Examples of Chemical Potential Energy:

  • When a fuel is burned, chemical potential energy stored is converted to heat

  • During the metabolic process of digestion. Food, in biological organisms, is transformed into energy.

  • The photosynthesis process. Through this process, green plants transform solar energy into chemical energy.

  • Electrochemical reactions are electric energy converted into chemical energy through electrochemical reactions. These reactions do occur during battery charging.


Published: June 12, 2020
Last review: June 12, 2020