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7 Major Differences

written by Stanley Udegbunam || Dec 18, 2020

OVERVIEW OF KINETIC ENERGY VS POTENTIAL ENERGY

Energy is defined as the ability of a physical system to do work.

There are two primary forms of energy:

• Kinetic energy and
• Potential energy

Kinetic energy is associated with motion while potential energy is energy stored in a system.

Using a comparison table, let’s look at a more detailed difference between kinetic and potential energy

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KINETIC ENERGY AND POTENTIAL ENERGY

DIFFERENCESKINETIC ENERGYPOTENTIAL ENERGY
1.ENVIRONMENTAL
RELATIVITY
Kinetic energy of an object is relative to other moving and stationary objects in its immediate environment.Potential energy is not relative to the environment of an object.
2.SPEED DEPENDENCYIt is dependent on the speed of the moving objectHas nothing to do with the speed of the object.
3.HEIGHT DEPENDENCYKinetic energy doesn’t take the height travelled or distance covered into consideration.Potential energy is largely dependent on the vertical height travelled during motion.
4.DEFINITIONThis is the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its motion.This is the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position.
5.EQUATIONK.E = 1/2mv2P.E = m × g × h
6.TRANSFERABILITYCan be transferred between objects through collision.Cannot be transferred between objects.
7.COMMON EXAMPLES
a.) Flowing river
b.) Flying bullet
a.) A compressed or stretched spring
b.) An archer's bow with the string pulled back.

slide sideways to see the complete table

DIFFERENCESKINETIC ENERGYPOTENTIAL ENERGY
1.ENVIRONMENTAL
RELATIVITY
Kinetic energy of an object is relative to other moving and stationary objects in its immediate environment.Potential energy is not relative to the environment of an object.
2.SPEED DEPENDENCYIt is dependent on the speed of the moving objectHas nothing to do with the speed of the object.
3.HEIGHT DEPENDENCYKinetic energy doesn’t take the height travelled or distance covered into consideration.Potential energy is largely dependent on the vertical height travelled during motion.
4.DEFINITIONThis is the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its motion.This is the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position.
5.EQUATIONK.E = 1/2mv2P.E = m × g × h
6.TRANSFERABILITYCan be transferred between objects through collision.Cannot be transferred between objects.
7.COMMON EXAMPLES
a.) Flowing river
b.) Flying bullet
a.) A compressed or stretched spring
b.) An archer's bow with the string pulled back.

A drawn arrow possess potential energy.

When the arrow is released, the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy.

ENERGY DIFFERENCE QUIZ

Let’s see how well you can tell the difference between kinetic and potential energy.

For the examples below, try and identify whether it’s a kinetic energy example or a potential energy example.

Click the “Show  Answer” tab to see if you are correct.

1. Water flowing from a tap

2. A stationary charged particle in an electric field.

3. Two magnetic bars kept apart

4. A thrown javelin

5. Fire works not yet launched

The mango hanging from the tree undisturbed possess potential energy.

When hit by a stone this potential energy changes to kinetic energy and the mango falls to the ground.

SUMMARY

Kinetic energy is concerned with motion while potential energy is concerned with object position.

Potential energy is stored energy awaiting release, while kinetic energy indicates energy in motion.

Hence the stored potential energy can be converted to kinetic energy and vice versa.

Energy will still be conserved regardless of the conversion process.