Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

Energy Is Everything

What is potential energy?

Potential energy describes all of the nonkinetic energy associated with an object. This energy can be the energy stored in chemical bonds, in a compressed spring, or in a variety of other ways. Another example is gravitational potential energy, like that associated with a ball sitting at the top of a hill. Since there are many types of potential energy, there isn’t a single equation that describes them all. Since the value we assign to potential energy is always inherently described relative to some choice of a reference value, we can only actually measure changes in potential energy in a meaningful way. A closed system can exchange potential energy for kinetic and vice versa, but the total energy must always remain constant. This is stated in the First Law of Thermodynamics, which we’ll get to soon.


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