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Potential Energy -- What are the different ways it can be stored?

  1. Nov 5, 2014 #1


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    Potential energy is energy contained in certain system, for example in physical body mass in gravitational field of Earth.

    Potential energy at initial position has value equal to work neccessary to move mass from initial position to new position.

    But also, i read that potential energy can also be stored in other ways.

    It'd be nice if someone elaborated examples, especially interrested in Quantum Physics & Electronics examples.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2014 #2
    Well, there's electrostatic potential energy, and elastic potential energy. You can assign a potential energy function to any conservative force field as far as I know.
  4. Nov 5, 2014 #3
    Are you looking for a simple list? Why don't you start by listing what you can think of?
  5. Nov 5, 2014 #4


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    i know too little of physics & related english words to speak about this properly.

    but i'll list examples:

    - mass at height,
    - tense spring (not sure if i translated this well),
    - chemical energy (not sure if it's correct),
    - solar energy (not sure if it's correct).
  6. Nov 5, 2014 #5
    Solar energy isn't a good example. Solar energy comes from nuclear fusion reactions of hydrogen and heavier elements. But there are nuclear reactions happening outside the sun, also. So it is better to put nuclear energy in the list rather than solar energy. Any nuclear or chemical reaction that gives off energy converts a small amount of mass into energy, so you could consider all mass to be a form of potential energy, depending on context. Any mass at rest can in principle be completely converted to kinetic energy (including photons) by annihilating it with an equal supply of antimatter.

    It might be useful to consider how potential energy is stored at a more fundamental level. Springs and other elastic objects store energy in the electric field, since it is the displacement of the chemical bonds which is responsible for the elasticity. Levitating a mass stores energy in the gravitational field. Nuclear fuel stores energy in the strong nuclear bonds.

    I've given a very physical picture of potential energy, but you can also think of potential energy as a mathematical construct--a bookkeeping engine. I prefer to think of potential energy in terms of real measurable things.
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