Energy - Forms of Energy

Forms of Energy

In the context of physical sciences, several forms of energy have been defined. These include:

• Thermal energy, thermal energy in transit is called heat
• Chemical energy
• Electric energy
• Nuclear energy
• Magnetic energy
• Elastic energy
• Sound energy
• Mechanical energy
• Luminous energy
• Mass (E=mcÂ˛)

These forms of energy may be divided into two main groups; kinetic energy and potential energy. Other familiar types of energy are a varying mix of both potential and kinetic energy.

Energy may be transformed between these forms, some with 100% energy conversion efficiency and others with less. Items that transform between these forms are called transducers.

The above list of the known possible forms of energy is not necessarily complete. Whenever physical scientists discover that a certain phenomenon appears to violate the law of energy conservation, new forms may be added, as is the case with dark energy, a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to increase the rate of expansion of the universe.

Classical mechanics distinguishes between potential energy, which is a function of the position of an object, and kinetic energy, which is a function of its movement. Both position and movement are relative to a frame of reference, which must be specified: this is often (and originally) an arbitrary fixed point on the surface of the Earth, the terrestrial frame of reference. It has been attempted to categorize all forms of energy as either kinetic or potential: this is not incorrect, but neither is it clear that it is a real simplification, as Feynman points out:

These notions of potential and kinetic energy depend on a notion of length scale. For example, one can speak of macroscopic potential and kinetic energy, which do not include thermal potential and kinetic energy. Also what is called chemical potential energy is a macroscopic notion, and closer examination shows that it is really the sum of the potential and kinetic energy on the atomic and subatomic scale. Similar remarks apply to nuclear "potential" energy and most other forms of energy. This dependence on length scale is non-problematic if the various length scales are decoupled, as is often the case ... but confusion can arise when different length scales are coupled, for instance when friction converts macroscopic work into microscopic thermal energy.

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