GCSE – Storing energy

Energy is stored in many different ways which you will come across everyday. The seven main ways to store energy are:
– Kinetic energy
– Thermal energy
– Elastic potential energy
– Gravitational potential energy
– Magnetic energy
– Chemical energy
– Electrostatic energy

Many of the storage methods mentioned above you will already be familiar with, so we’ll start with these.

Below I will explain what environments each energy storage methods can be found and what happens as a result of each energy storage method.

Kinetic energy

A simple explanation of something that has kinetic (movement) energy is an object which is moving, this could be a car driving, a cheetah running or a skydiver falling out of the sky. If an object is completely still it will have a kineic energy equal to zero, however if an object is moving fast it will have a higher amount o f kinetic energy stored inside itself.

Thermal energy

Fireeeeee! To explain the concept of thermal energy I will need the help of a fire. If you were to place a piece of cardboard on a fire it will burn correct? Now where does the energy required to destroy a piece of cardboard come from? Hopefully this is what I will explain to you in the next few lines.

The coldest temperature physically possible is 0K (Kelvins), which is about -273C and -459F. If an object was as cold as this it would have zero thermal energy, anything hotter than 0K will store thermal energy. Because the fire which we put the cardboard onto is extremely hot, it has a lot of thermal energy. This energy is what is used to destroy the piece of cardboard.

Elastic potential energy

Whenever you hear the word “Elastic” you should be immediately thinking about elastic bands! When you stretch an elastic band out as far as you can you’ll be able to feel it fighting against you. Now this force acting against you is called the elastic potential energy. The further you stretch out the elastic band the stronger it will fight against you which I’m sure you will realise if you play around with an elastic band.

All this elastic potential energy will be used when you release the band and it flys back into it’s original shape. (Unless you snap it)

Gravitational potential energy

We all experience this force every second of our lives no matter where we are in the universe. Gravitational potential energy is what keeps us all on the surface of the Earth! When a skydiver is about to jump out of a plane they have an amount of gravitational potential energy now this is important because it explains why they fall back towards the Earth’s surface. Otherwise they would just float in the air forever if they had no gravitiational potential energy.

Another example would be if you jumped on the floor, you travel upwards then at some point you’ll slow down and then start travelling back downwards. The force that pulls you back down is gravitational potential energy. At the highest point of the jump you will ahve the highest amount of energy, foloowed by when you are on the ground you have zero gravitational potential energy.

Magnetic energy

When two magnets are placed close to eachother they will most likely spin around then connect ot one another. Now all that movement needs some energy otherwise it won’t have happened. The energy that allows two magnets to attract towards eachother is called magnetic energy.

If you were to hold two magnets close together they may repel away from eachother, this is also a result of there being magnetic energy.

Chemical energy

In chemsitry I’m sure you’ve seen a chemical reaction which bubbles, heats up or changes colour. Well once again all these things you see need energy in order to happen. The energy this time comes from the chemical reaction itself, it will become chemical energy and then that energy will allow the reation to bubble ect.

Electostatic energy

Finally, similarly to magnetic fields an electric field will experience a force. From chemsitry you will be familiar with protons and electrons, as all protons have a positive charge they will repel from eachother. Electrons all have a negative charge and will also repel eachother, however a proton and electron will attract towards eachother as they have opposite charges. Exactly like a north and south pole on a magnet.

The energy that allows protons and electrons to behave like this is the electrostatic energy stored inside them.

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