Types of Energy

Which type of energy does an unlit match have?

And the answer: chemical.      

Before it's lit, the head of a matchstick has a good amount of chemical energy stored in it. However, actually lighting a match causes multiple transformations of energy, from chemical to thermal, and then to light and radiant energy.

Photo credit: Vitelle / Getty Images. 

Though you may be more familiar with kinetic or potential, a whole host of energy forms comprise the daily workings of life in different forms. Chemical energy, for one, is that which is stored in the bonds of chemical compounds and is released most often in the form of heat. For example, we make use of the chemical energy in wood when we toss it on a crackling fire.

Other forms of energy include electrical, mechanical, thermal, nuclear, and gravitational. Electrical energy is one of the most common (and thus most useful) forms of energy— and no, it doesn't come from just lightning. Electrical energy can actually be activated in power sources like coal by converting its chemical energy into electricity through various transformations. Meanwhile, mechanical energy refers to the energy of a system in motion. Machines use mechanical energy to complete products or processes — everything from cars to factories make use of mechanical energy. In fact, most energy forms must work together to achieve a desired effect.

Thermal energy, on the other hand, is the energy a substance or system has related to its temperature. For example, the energy of moving or vibrating molecules is used in radiation to cook food. Nuclear energy is the energy that is trapped inside each atom. Nuclear energy can be produced either by the fusion (combining atoms) or fission (splitting of atoms) process. The fission process is the widely used method, though it is controversial for the radioactive waste that can be produced after its use.

Finally, gravitational energy is the energy stored in an object's weight or height. The higher and heavier the object, the more gravitational energy that object has.

Now you're an expert on all types of energy! Test your knowledge here.  

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