Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: August 08, 2022


Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy

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Energy permeates everything around us. Energy serves as both the foundation for and the means of operation. Energy underlies a thing, object, or person's capacity to perform work. Energy comes in a variety of forms. Kinetic energy and potential energy are two examples of such energies.

When an object is moving, its mass or speed can be used to calculate its kinetic energy. Utilizing an object's mass, gravity, height, and distance, potential energy can be computed.

Now, let’s understand the major differences between kinetic energy and potential energy in a bit more detail.

Kinetic Energy vs Potential Energy

The primary distinction between kinetic energy and potential energy is that whereas kinetic energy can be transmitted between things, potential energy cannot do so. Explaining further, the primary difference between kinetic and potential energy is that the former needs to take into account the energy of moving objects, while the latter refers to the energy that an object holds as a result of its position about other things in the environment.

Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy in Tabular Form

Table: Kinetic Energy vs Potential Energy
Parameters of Comparison
Kinetic Energy
Potential Energy
The energy possessed by an object in motion.
It’s the stored energy in an object.
Relatability with the Environment
It’s related to the environment.
It’s not related to the environment.
It can be transferred.
It cannot be transferred.
Velocity and Mass.
Mass, height, or distance.

What is Kinetic Energy?

The energy an item has as a result of motion is known as kinetic energy in physics. It is described as the effort required to move a mass-determined body from rest to the stated velocity. The body will hold onto the kinetic energy it gained during its acceleration till its speed changes. The body exerts the very same level of effort when slowing down from its current pace to a condition of rest. Technically, kinetic energy is any term that covers a time derivative in the Lagrangian of a system.

According to classical physics, an object of mass m moving at a speed of v has kinetic energy equal to 1/2mv2. This is a fair approximation in relativistic mechanics only when v is considerably slower than the speed of light.

The joule is the accepted measurement of kinetic energy.

The Greek term v kinesis, which means "motion," is the ancestor of the adjective kinetic. Aristotle's ideas of actuality and potentiality are where the distinction between kinetic energy and potential energy originated.

Now, studies show that Gottfried Leibniz and Johann Bernoulli were the first to formulate the classical mechanic’s principle that E mv2, referring to kinetic energy as the "vital power," or vis viva. Also, experimental proof of this connection was supplied by Willem's Gravesande in the Netherlands. Moreover, Willem's Gravesande discovered that the depth of the penetration of weights into a block of clay was inversely proportional to the square of the impact speed. Emilie du Châtelet wrote an explanation after realizing the ramifications of the experiment.

In their modern scientific senses, the phrases "kinetic energy" and "work" have been around since the middle of the 19th century. Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis, who wrote the work Du Calcul de L’Enfant des Machines in 1829 explaining the mathematics of kinetic energy, is responsible for the earliest understanding of these concepts. The word "kinetic energy" is credited to William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, who used it between 1849 and 1851. Rankine, who had coined the phrase "actual energy" to accompany the concept of "potential energy" in 1853, subsequently credits William Thomson and Peter Tait for replacing "actual" with the word "kinetic."

Now, chemical energy, thermal energy, electromagnetic radiation, gravitational energy, electric energy, elastic energy, nuclear energy, and rest energy are only a few of the many different types of energy that exist. Potential energy and kinetic energy are the two basic categories that can be used to group them. An object's kinetic energy is what drives its motion. Kinetic energy can go from one thing to another and change into other types of energy.

Examples showing how kinetic energy is changed into and out of different forms of energy may help people better understand kinetic energy. For instance, a biker can speed up a bicycle to a desired pace by using chemical energy from meals. This speed can be maintained on a level surface without additional effort, except by overcoming friction and air resistance. Although the chemical energy has been transformed into kinetic energy—the energy of motion—the process is not entirely effective and causes the cyclist to become warm.

Cycling and the bicycle both generate kinetic energy, which can be transformed into other forms. For instance, the rider may come across a hill that is just steep enough to coast up, causing the bicycle to come to a complete stop at the summit. By freewheeling down the opposite side of the hill, the gravitational potential energy, which has now largely replaced the kinetic energy, can be released. The bicycle never fully regains its speed without more pedaling since some of its energy was lost to friction.

Now, the energy has only been changed to a different form through friction; it has not been annihilated. As an alternative, the rider may attach a dynamo to one of the wheels and produce some electricity while descending. Also because some of the energy has been converted into electrical energy, the bicycle would be moving more slowly at the bottom of the slope than it would be without the generator. The biker may also engage the brakes, in which case the kinetic energy would be lost as heat as a result of friction.

The relationship between an object and the observer's frame of reference affects the kinetic energy of the object, just like it does for any other physical quantity that depends on velocity. As a result, an object's kinetic energy is not constant.

Chemical energy is used by spacecraft to launch and to build up significant kinetic energy to reach orbital velocity. Due to the near absence of friction in near-Earth space, this kinetic energy is constant in a fully circular orbit.

Now, when some of the kinetic energy is converted to heat upon re-entry, it becomes clear. If the orbit is elliptical or hyperbolic, kinetic and potential energy are exchanged throughout the orbit; kinetic energy is highest and potential energy is lowest when the object is closest to the earth or another large body, while potential energy is highest and kinetic energy is lowest when the object is farthest from the object. The total amount of kinetic and potential energy stays constant regardless of loss or gain.

Plus, one object can transfer kinetic energy to another. Now, the cue ball is given kinetic energy in the game of pool by the player striking it with the cue stick.  Also, the cue ball rapidly slows down when it strikes another ball, and the ball it struck accelerates as the kinetic energy is transferred to it. Moreover, Billiards collisions are essentially elastic collisions, where the kinetic energy is maintained. So, kinetic energy is lost in inelastic collisions as heat, sound, and binding energy, among other kinds of energy (breaking bound structures).

It has been designed to store energy using flywheels. This demonstrates that circular motion can also store kinetic energy.

Kinetic energy can be described mathematically in a variety of ways depending on the relevant physical conditions. The Newtonian (classical) mechanics formula 1/2mv2 is appropriate for things and actions encountered in everyday life. However, relativistic effects become prominent and the relativistic formula is utilized if the object's speed is close to that of light. A quantum mechanical model must be used if the item is on the atomic or subatomic scale because of the importance of quantum mechanical phenomena.

Because of their relative motion, a system of bodies may contain internal kinetic energy. For instance, the planets and planetoids in the Solar System revolve around the Sun. The molecules in a tank of gas are constantly moving. The system's total kinetic energy is made up of the kinetic energies of all the bodies it holds.

Various types of internal energy at the molecular or atomic level, which may be regarded as kinetic energy, may be present in a macroscopic body that is stationary (i.e., a reference frame has been selected to correspond to the body's center of momentum). These internal energies may be caused by molecular translation, rotation, vibration, electron translation, spin, and nuclear spin. As per the special theory of relativity, each one adds to the body's total mass. The kinetic energy stated when talking about a macroscopic body's functions is typically just that of the macro movement. The mass, inertia, and total energy of a body are, ultimately, all interior energies of all kinds.

What is Potential Energy?

Scottish engineer and scientist William Rankine coined the phrase "potential energy" in the 19th century. Potential energy comes in various forms, each of which is connected to a particular kind of power. It is the energy ascribed to an object as a result of its location among other objects. Learn about potential energy in this article as well as its description, types, and many instances.

As we all know, an object's position causes it to be able to store energy. When a bow and arrow are used, the energy that is stored when the bow is drawn is what gives the arrow its kinetic energy when it is released.

Similar to this, when spring is moved away from its equilibrium position, it gains some energy, which we can feel when we stretch our hands to feel the tension. Potential energy is a type of energy that arises from a change in its position or state, according to our definition.

The force acting on the two objects affects the potential energy formula. The equation for gravitational force is:

W = m×g×h = mgh


The mass in kilogrammes is m.

Gravitational acceleration, or g,

The height in meters is h.

Due to its position, an object can store energy. For instance, when a demolition machine's heavy ball is held in an elevated position, it is storing energy. Potential energy is the name for this positional energy that has been stored. Similar to how a drawn bow can store energy due to its posture, There is no energy in the bow while it is in its normal position, or when not drawn. The bow can yet store energy when its position is changed from its normal equilibrium position because of its position. Potential energy is the name for this positional energy that has been stored. Potential energy is the energy of position that a thing has stored inside it.

One of the two types of energy is potential energy, which is the latent energy in an object at rest. Kinetic energy, on the other hand, is the energy that a moving item expresses. Potential energy is a fundamental idea in any discussion of physics and one of the key elements in the equations that describe the known universe.

Main Differences Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy In Points

Now let’s look at the differences between kinetic energy and potential energy in the following points:

  • Now, according to studies, due to its kinetic characteristics, kinetic energy is a form of energy found in the body. Also, potential energy is a form of energy that the body contains as a result of a state's characteristics.
  • It is simple to transfer kinetic energy from one body to another.
  • Potential energy cannot be transferred between two bodies.
  • The factors that determine kinetic energy are either velocity or mass. Potential energy is determined by mass and height/distance.
  • Kinetic energy is seen in the flow of water.
  • Potential energy can be compared to water on a hill.


The entire cosmos is an energetic field. The fundamental elements for defining existence are physics and the cosmos. Energy can only alter its form; it cannot be created or destroyed. It just modifies its shape.

Potential energy and kinetic energy can both be changed. Kinetic energy is the energy that a thing holds when it is moving, whereas potential energy is the energy that is produced when the object is at rest. Both energies are crucial elements in the effort to comprehend the workings of psychics. Gravity, motion, travel, distance, and rest are all essential for comprehending how energy and energy flow.


  • Difference between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy. (2022, April 30). Retrieved from GeeksforGeeks: https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-kinetic-energy-and-potential-energy/
  • Kinetic energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_energy


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"Difference Between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy." Diffzy.com, 2023. Mon. 27 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-kinetic-energy-and-potential-energy-838>.

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