22 Examples Of Potential Energy In Everyday Life

Some examples of potential energy that we can find on a daily basis are a swing, a wrecking ball, a trampoline, a stretched bowstring, a balloon or a spring-loaded gun, among others.

Potential energy is the process of storing mechanical energy in a physical system by virtue of its configuration and positioning. For example, a wrecking ball stores energy when it is held up without activity.

an example of potential energy: spring-loaded gun

An Example of Potential Energy: Spring-loaded Gun

It should be noted that potential energy is not obtained from the displacement of bodies, but refers to the ability of bodies to create a force X when they are immobile, taking into account their position in space.

In this sense, it differs from kinetic energy, which is manifested when the body is in motion.

Types of potential energy

There are several types of potential energy, for example: gravitational, elastic, electrostatic and chemical.

1- gravitational potential energy

Gravitational potential energy is the energy that is stored in an object as a result of its vertical position or the height at which it is.

In this case, the gravitational force, which attracts all objects towards the center of the earth, is responsible for storing energy in objects.

The gravitational potential energy is calculated through the following equation: 

Gravitational potential energy = mass x gravity (9.8 N / kg on Earth) x height.

In this sense, it is observed that there are three elements that affect gravitational potential energy: gravity, mass and height.

2- Elastic potential energy

Elastic potential energy is that which is stored in elastic materials and is the result of the traction and compression processes to which these objects are subjected.

The amount of energy stored in these materials depends on the traction force to which the object is subjected: the more they stretch, the greater the potential energy.

3- Electrostatic potential energy

Electrostatic potential energy occurs between objects that repel or attract each other. In objects that attract each other, the potential energy will be greater the further away they are; On the other hand, in the objects that repel each other, the potential energy will be greater the closer they are.

4- Chemical potential energy

Approximate representation of the Helium atom. In the nucleus the protons are represented in red and the neutrons in blue.

Chemical potential energy is one that has the ability to transform certain chemicals into kinetic energy.

Featured potential energy examples

1- Wrecking ball

A wrecking ball has gravitational potential energy, generated by the suspension of the ball in the crane. 

2- Swing

A swing, like a wrecking ball, has gravitational potential energy because it is suspended from a support.

When the swing is moved forward or backward, it remains stationary for a few milliseconds, allowing it to store energy. Similarly, the swing stores energy when it is not swinging. 

3- Pendulum

Pendulums, like those in wall clocks, store potential energy thanks to gravity. 

4- A ball rolling down a slope

A ball rolling down a slope has two moments when it can store potential energy: the first is when it is at the top of the hill, and the second is when it has finished descending and stops. 

5- League

A league in its natural state does not present any type of potential energy. However, when it is stretched it begins to store energy, thanks to its elasticity. 

6- bungee rope

A bungee cord, like a common rubber band, stores potential energy when stretched. 

7- Trampoline

A trampoline that is not being used has no potential energy. It begins to store energy only when an object bounces off it. This type of potential energy is elastic. 

8- Springs

Springs are a classic example of elastic potential energy, since when stretched they absorb potential energy that is released when they contract.

9- A bucket on a door

A bucket of water on a door has the potential to fall at any moment, so it is gravitational potential energy. 

10- A drawn bow with an arrow

An arc that is not being used has no potential energy. However, when it is tensioned and the arrow has not yet been fired, it begins to store potential energy due to elasticity. 

11- A rock on the edge of a cliff

A rock on the edge of a cliff has gravitational potential energy. If the rock falls, the potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. 

12- A fruit on a tree branch      

Like a rock about to fall off a cliff, a fruit on a tree has the ability to detach itself at any moment due to the pull exerted by gravitational forces on Earth. 

13- A firework

A firework that has not yet been lit has chemical potential energy, since the reactants that compose it can explode when they come into contact with a flame. 

14- The foods we eat

The food we eat has chemical potential energy. 

15- The batteries of the toys

Toy batteries have chemical potential energy that is transformed into kinetic energy when the toy is powered. 

16- A car powered by gasoline

A gasoline-powered car, like a battery-powered toy, has chemical potential energy that can be transformed into kinetic energy. 

17- A spring gun

A spring-operated pistol exhibits elastic potential energy at the moment the trigger is pulled.

18- A magnet and a metallic object

When a magnet is placed at a distance from a metal object, electrostatic potential energy is generated. 

19- Two magnets facing each other by their positive poles

When two magnets face each other at their positive poles and are placed very close to each other, electrostatic potential energy is generated. 

20- A balloon full of air

A balloon filled with air has elastic potential energy, since the balloon walls have expanded due to the air.

21- A roller coaster

This type of attraction works by converting gravitational potential energy (moving away from the ground) into kinetic energy (moving at high speed).

22- Photosynthesis

This metabolic process of plants transform organic or inorganic matter into chemical potential energy from solar energy.


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