What is elastic potential energy?

When distorted, springs store elastic potential energy.

Elastic potential energy is the energy stored by the forces inside a distorted elastic object. One of the easiest ways to understand the concept is to study the mechanics of an ordinary spring. It is also better to break down the various components to get the most in-depth knowledge.

Energy is the ability to do work and is most often transferred between two or more objects that are working. Energy can come in many forms, such as kinetic energy that physically moves objects or potential energy that is in the forces within or between objects. Potential energy is not as easy to see as kinetic energy because nothing visibly moves. Simply put, if objects have the potential to do work, they contain potential energy.

There are several different types of potential energy: gravitational, elastic, electrostatic, chemical, and nuclear. As mentioned above, the best example of elastic potential energy is seen through an examination of a wound watch spring. Also, potential energy can be measured in many different ways, such as in joules, calories, and kilowatt-hours.

When studying this type of energy, many people also consider the elastic limit of an object. For example, if someone pulls on a spring, it is possible to pull it too far and distort it, and as a result, it will exert less force. In most cases, once the spring or any other object has exceeded its elastic limit, it will deform – usually permanently.

Distorting an object, like a spring, takes work. It can be stretched by hand by simply pulling the ends out. When the tips are pulled out, energy from the person pulling is transferred to the spring and stored.

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The movement can also be done in reverse. If a spring is compressed, the energy returns to the person’s hand. Only a small amount of this energy remains in the spring as thermal energy.

Another way to look at elastic potential energy in an object, such as a spring, is to consider its equilibrium shape. For example, a spring that is distorted and no longer maintains its equilibrium shape has this type of energy. Balance is achieved when nothing is pushing, pulling or twisting the spring.

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