Gravitational energy examples

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Gravitational energy, also known as gravitational potential energy, refers to the energy an object possesses by virtue of its position in a gravitational field. It is directly related to the object’s height above a reference point. The higher the object is positioned, the greater its gravitational potential energy. This energy arises from the gravitational force between the object and the Earth (or any other massive body). Objects in elevated positions possess gravitational energy because they have the potential to fall or move towards the Earth, converting their potential energy into other forms, such as kinetic energy. For example, a raised weight or a ball positioned on a hilltop has gravitational potential energy that can be converted into kinetic energy as it falls or rolls downhill.

Examples

Motorcycle

Gravitational energy example - motorcycle
When a motorcycle jumps from a hill, it possesses gravitational energy due to its elevated position | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A motorcycle jumping from a hill exhibits gravitational potential energy during the ascent. As the motorcycle climbs the hill, it gains potential energy due to its increased height. When the motorcycle leaves the ground to jump, the stored potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, propelling the motorcycle through the air. The descent of the motorcycle after the jump further illustrates the continuous conversion between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy. Motorcycle jumps from hills showcase the dynamic application of gravitational potential energy in the realm of extreme sports.

Bookshelf

Gravitational energy example - bookshelf
A book resting at the top of a bookshelf has gravitational energy stored in it due to its position in Earth’s gravitational field | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

Books resting on the top of a bookshelf possess gravitational potential energy. The potential energy is a result of the books being elevated above the ground. The amount of potential energy depends on the height of the bookshelf and the mass of the books. If the books were to fall, the stored potential energy would be converted into kinetic energy as they descend. This scenario demonstrates how everyday objects, like books on a shelf, exhibit gravitational potential energy based on their position in relation to the Earth’s surface.

Roller coaster

Gravitational energy example - roller coaster
The wagon of a roller coaster at a peak position contains gravitational energy, which will be converted into kinetic energy as it descends | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A roller coaster showcases the interplay between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy. At the highest point of the roller coaster track, the coaster cars have maximum gravitational potential energy. As the cars descend, the potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, resulting in high-speed motion. The thrilling dips and loops of a roller coaster illustrate the dynamic transfer between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy throughout the ride, providing riders with an exhilarating experience.

Crane

Gravitational energy example - crane
A weight hanging from a crane possesses gravitational energy based on its height above the ground | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

When a crane lifts a weight, gravitational potential energy is at play. As the crane elevates the weight off the ground, it gains potential energy due to its increased height in the Earth’s gravitational field. The amount of potential energy stored in the lifted weight depends on its mass and the height to which it is raised. This stored potential energy can be released by lowering the weight or allowing it to descend, converting the gravitational potential energy back into kinetic energy. The controlled lifting and lowering of weights by cranes demonstrate the practical application of gravitational potential energy in various industries, showcasing the efficiency and versatility of such lifting systems.

Wrecking ball

Gravitational energy example - wrecking ball
A stationary wrecking ball at its highest point holds gravitational energy that converts to kinetic energy when it descends | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A wrecking ball suspended from a crane demonstrates gravitational potential energy. When the wrecking ball is lifted to a certain height, it gains gravitational potential energy due to its elevated position in the Earth’s gravitational field. The potential energy stored in the wrecking ball is then converted into kinetic energy as the ball swings and is released to demolish structures. The controlled release of gravitational potential energy enables the wrecking ball to perform destructive work during demolition processes.

Pebble

Gravitational energy example - pebble
When a pebble is lifted vertically by hand, it gains gravitational energy due to its increased height above the ground | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

Lifting a pebble in hand creates gravitational potential energy. When the pebble is raised above the ground, it gains potential energy due to its elevated position in the Earth’s gravitational field. The potential energy stored in the pebble can be released by letting it fall, converting the potential energy into kinetic energy. This simple action illustrates the fundamental relationship between elevation and gravitational potential energy in everyday objects.

Large rock

Gravitational energy example - large rock
A large rock sitting precariously at the edge of a cliff contains gravitational energy based on its elevated position | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A large rock positioned on the edge of a cliff or slope possesses gravitational potential energy. The potential energy is a result of the rock’s elevated position in the Earth’s gravitational field. If the rock were to fall, the stored potential energy would be converted into kinetic energy as the rock descends. The amount of potential energy depends on the rock’s mass and the height of the cliff or slope. The concept is fundamental to understanding the potential danger associated with unstable rocks positioned on elevated surfaces.

Apple

Gravitational energy example - apple
An apple hanging from a branch, showcasing gravitational energy as it remains supported above the ground due to its elevated position | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A hanging fruit, such as an apple on a tree, exhibits gravitational potential energy when elevated above the ground. As the fruit hangs from the tree branch, it gains potential energy due to its position in the Earth’s gravitational field. When the fruit falls or is plucked, the potential energy is converted into kinetic energy as it descends. The fall of the fruit is governed by the principles of gravitational acceleration, and the kinetic energy gained allows the fruit to reach the ground. Hanging fruit demonstrates the natural occurrence of gravitational potential energy in everyday situations.

Garden slide

Gravitational energy example - garden slide
A child sitting at the top of a garden slide possesses gravitational energy based on their elevated position | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A child sitting at the top of a garden slide possesses gravitational potential energy. The potential energy is determined by the height of the slide and the mass of the child. As the child starts to slide down, the potential energy is gradually converted into kinetic energy, resulting in the child’s descent down the slide. The enjoyment of the sliding experience is a playful illustration of the gravitational potential energy concept in a familiar and recreational setting.

Waterfall

Gravitational energy example - waterfall
Water falling from the top of a waterfall possesses gravitational energy, which is converted into kinetic energy as it descends | Image: Stock photo, unknown source[●]

A waterfall is a natural example of the conversion between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy. Water at the top of a waterfall has gravitational potential energy due to its elevated position. As the water flows downward, this potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy, creating the dynamic and visually stunning motion of a waterfall. The height of the waterfall contributes to the force and velocity of the falling water, showcasing the continuous conversion between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy in the natural world.

Related

Image credit

  • The stock photos used in this post are sourced from platforms like Pexels, Pixabay, Canva, etc. Due to the age of the images, their specific origins remain unknown.

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Deep

Learnool.com was founded by Deep Rana, who is a mechanical engineer by profession and a blogger by passion. He has a good conceptual knowledge on different educational topics and he provides the same on this website. He loves to learn something new everyday and believes that the best utilization of free time is developing a new skill.

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