Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I've been wondering

  1. Jan 4, 2007 #1
    Is heat created by the movement of the atoms, or the movement of electrons in each atom, or both?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2007 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This is a common misconception regarding heat. Heat is the transfer of thermal energy down a temperature gradient. Thermal energy (or internal energy) is the sum total of the kinetic energy and potential energy of the molecules in a system. The kinetic energy includes translational, rotational and vibrational energy levels. The potential energy is associated with the vibrational and electric energy of atoms within molecules (this includes energy stored in the chemical bonds). If the substance is a conducting metal, the internal energy also includes the energy possessed by valance electrons.

    Note the differences between heat and thermal energy.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?