I've only taken an introduction to physics classes so excuse any ignorance on my part. Recently, I've been wondering why all we have figured out is an indirect way to harness the energy of heat. My reference is to nuclear power mostly; We use the enormous amounts of heat to create steam from water and then use the steam to turn a turbine which powers a generator. I am sure this indirect way loses most of the energy and all that waste heat (the steam) is just going up in the air. I have searched for answers on google for a few hours and I have came across another indirect way to harness the power of heat using a thermocouple (junction between two different metals that produces a voltage related to a temperature difference). It's my understanding that this process normally produces minuscule results in general. ------------------- When I think of a fire, it is so hot; it seems to be so much energy packed into it. To think all we can get from this overload of energy is a few watts is disappointing. I got to thinking; Heat is basically the "vibration" of molecules in an object. When I think of vibration, I think of movement, and with movement comes kinetic energy (ke = 1/2mv2). So, based on this reasoning lets take a 1KG metal weight and heat it up so its bright red. Lets assume the total mass of an object refers to ALL the molecules in the object. The velocity would be very very small, because we don't see the object move. KE = (1/2)(1 Kg)(1-1000m/s)2 .... This basically comes out to basically nothing. One would think something that is THAT hot would have some form of energy, yet its kinetic energy is almost nothing. So I am thinking you can't really apply kinetic energy to this and maybe thermal energy isnt based on kinetic energy, or atleast not that equation. However, reading this page: http://www.school-for-champions.com/science/thermal_energy.htm confuses me. It states: "Thermal energy is the total internal kinetic energy of an object due to the random motion of its atoms and molecules. It is sometimes confused with internal energy or thermodynamic energy. They consist of the sum of the internal kinetic energy (thermal energy) and the potential energy of an object.". What is this energy called from the movement of all the molecules when an object heats up? How do we measure this energy? How can we harness it more directly? All replies and discussions are welcomed, as the point of this post is for me to learn and get a better grasp of physics.