Energy is contained in all matter. It can be transferred from one thing to another or changed into different forms, but it cannot be created or destroyed. Here are some of the different forms that energy can take:
1. Nuclear Energy – The nucleus of every atom is composed of neutrons and protons which are held together by strong energy bonds. When atoms are split (fission) or when they collide and stick together (fusion), incredible amounts of energy can be released, largely as light and heat – this is what happens on stars like our Sun!
2. Light Energy – Light, or radiant, energy is the energy held in light waves, allowing them to travel across space. Light is one of the forms of energy that we as humans can sense.
3. Electric Energy – If you’ve ever charged a cell phone or seen lightning, you’ve witnessed electrical energy. This is energy held in the electrons of atoms that allows them to move and thus create an electric field.
4. Magnetic Energy – Related to electric energy, magnetic energy is also a product of the movement of electrons and their ability to produce a field. A magnetic field can either attract the electrons of other objects or repel another magnetic field.
5. Chemical Energy – Chemical energy is the energy held in the bonds between atoms in molecules. When different molecules react or are heated, for example, energy can be released. The most familiar examples of this is the chemical energy held in the food that we use for energy or in the gasoline we burn to power our cars.
6. Thermal Energy – Thermal energy is heat, and this is another form of energy that we can sense. Heat is really energy that is stored in electrons and which makes them move around. Adding more heat energy to a substance like ice, for example, can make its electrons move more and spread out to become liquid water.
7. Kinetic Energy – Kinetic energy is the energy stored in something that is moving. For example, you can also feel kinetic energy when a running friend runs into you. This energy can be transferred easily, as in when your friend knocks you down (moves you).
8. Potential Energy – This is the energy that is stored in objects within force fields. Fields of force can include gravity or elastic force. So when an apple is hanging high in a tree, it holds potential energy – as soon as the stem breaks, its potential energy will change to kinetic energy and it will fall to the ground.