While the term energy is a highly abstract notion, it has a practical application in physics. It always converts back into mass and is useful in calculating the results of any process. However, there is no physical essence of energy, and it is never pure. It is always carried by something, usually movement. This makes the concept of energy confusing, but it is essential to understanding the workings of any process. Let’s look at some different types of energy and their characteristics.
The work done by an object has a property called potential energy. Potential energy is a measure of the work that an object can do based on its extra force. Potential energy is measured in relation to a reference point called the zero point. This zero point can be any location: the center of the earth, sea level, floor, or table top. The only differences in potential energy between two locations are physical. Therefore, potential energy can be measured in many different ways.
The term kinetic energy was first used by Lord Kelvin in 1849 but conceptually it dates back to Aristotle. Kinetic energy is energy that a body expends while moving. It can be seen when a car accelerates and maintains its speed. Kinetic energy also increases as a body speeds up. For example, a person can experience more pain and injury if they are hit by a car moving too fast.
Thermal energy is naturally occurring heat and can be stored for later use. It can be produced from many sources, including fossil fuels, solar heat, and heat pump electric. Thermal energy is also useful in storage and backup power, as it does not have significant negative environmental impacts. The downside is that thermal energy can cause pollution, which may be released in the form of water or chemicals from thermal power plants. It can also change local climate patterns and contaminate water supplies.
With 99 operating nuclear reactors, the U.S. nuclear fleet is the largest in the world. It provides reliable power, which helps the country reduce its carbon footprint by avoiding the production of 320 million to 578 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Nuclear power also contributes to national security by laying the groundwork for next-generation advanced reactors, which promise to be more efficient, cheaper, and smaller. Furthermore, maintaining a domestic nuclear industry contributes to the nation’s national security by ensuring that exports of U.S. nuclear technologies are protected by non-proliferation safeguards and safety standards.
In our daily lives, we use electrical energy. This type of energy is easily converted into other forms and is safe to transport over a large distance. Many home appliances run on electrical energy. Electricity from the power grid powers cars, trains, pumps water, light bulbs, and more. During a blackout, all power in a region is shut off, usually due to a storm. We can help the environment by reducing our consumption of electricity through energy conservation.