Conservation of Momentum & Energy

Conservation of Momentum & Energy

Energy Transformation

We have seen how potential energy can be converted into kinetic energy and back again. Energy transformation is the process whereby one type of energy is converted into another type of energy. There are many examples of this in our everyday lives. Take a simple radio speaker. Radio waves that travel through the air are transformed by the radio antenna into electrical energy, which is amplified by more electrical energy from the wall socket that is transformed into magnetic field energy in the speaker’s electromagnet, which is converted into in-and-out movement of the speaker (kinetic energy), which is transformed into sound waves which we hear. Similarly, a car’s engine converts chemical potential energy of the gasoline into kinetic energy of the movement of pistons in the engine’s cylinders, which through gears drives the wheels and takes you to Dairy Queen.


On Earth, we experience energy transformations in surprising ways on a daily basis:


– Heat from radioactive decay in the Earth’s core drives convection in the mantle, which is responsible for plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


– Earth’s rotation coupled with convection drive currents in the Earth’s outer core to produce our planet’s magnetic field.


– Sunlight in many wavelengths is absorbed by the ground and re-emitted as infrared energy, which heats the air near the surface, causing it to rise, driving winds and rainfall.


– Plants absorb sunlight, converting it into chemical potential energy (food) used by plants to grow.


Now I think I’ll go have lunch and transform some plant and animal biomass into nutrients to power me for another few hours. Energy transformation is all around us and inside us.


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