Gravitational potential energy is a type of energy created by the impact of gravitational fields. It is directly reliant on gravitational force. This type of energy can be manifested by two masses approaching each other in such a manner that one can impact the condition of the other.
Extensive studies on potential energy have been conducted in both physics and astrophysics since Newton’s Laws of Universal Gravitation, and it can now be clearly defined as the energy resulting from two bodies with defined masses being at a certain distance from each other and managing to attract or deflect a body through the action of gravity produced by the bodies.
A gravitational field disperses gravitational potential energy throughout space.
A specific amount of mass creates these fields at a place; the more significant the body’s mass, the greater the intensity of their impact and reach. Similarly, any bodies with mass will be impacted by gravitational forces.
Examples of Gravitational Potential Energy with Pictures
Because gravitational potential energy may be observed with the naked eye in various ways, some of the most apparent instances of gravitational potential energy can be emphasized.
This visually appealing phenomenon occurs due to the frictional action of bodies coming from space against the atmosphere and the gravitational potential energy they contain, which causes meteorites and other objects in the Earth’s gravitational influence zone to be attracted to the Earth due to their large mass.
Satellites are any bodies that circle another in space and accompany them during their translation.
This is a clear natural example of potential energy.
Although the objects appear to be immobile in a continuous orbit, these motions result from a balance between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy that keeps them away from the surface, which maintains satellites in “free fall.”
Gymnasts must expertly control their kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy, which is not calculated similarly to the satellite’s potential energy.
Because of the athletes’ quick movements and tremendous heights, the collected energy in its entirety might cause catastrophic injury to limbs and joints if the individual cannot tolerate it.
The landslides of slopes, snow avalanches, and rockfalls demonstrate that all the bodies and enormous masses of Earth trapped at a considerable height accrue a massive gravitational potential energy capable of razing communities and hectares of vegetation.
Sports in the Snow
It is impossible to think of a sport in which this energy is not included.
Even in winter sports disciplines, such as snowboarding, tubing, skiing, and many other snow activities, there is an excellent utilization of gravitational potential energy since they are carried by gravity across smooth or easy-sliding surfaces.
How is Gravitational Potential Energy created?
Gravitational potential energy is created by the influence and force imposed by a gravitational field on a mass, which permits the body to move if its arrangement in the system allows it. This type of energy is present in bodies that have the potential to be relocated in the future.
How does Gravitational Potential Energy work?
Gravitational potential energy may be understood and condensed into a few key variables in this type of energy. Understanding these fundamental ideas will give you a good idea of how this energy works:
Gravitational Field: Specifies the region of action and effect of a body with mass in space. It is defined as a sector where the space-time curvature is bent, causing other bodies to be redirected towards the celestial body.
Acceleration: One of the properties of entities with mass inside gravitational fields is that they begin to accelerate in the direction of the joint meeting as soon as they enter them.
Mass: As the gravitational field’s epicenter, mass dictates the field’s strength and the quantity of energy produced as the body changes configuration.
Height or Distance: The quantity of potential energy to be released is determined by height or distance; the more significant the distance from the center where the mass is held, the higher the power to be harnessed in the system. As a result, the higher the acceleration it obtains from the moment the field influences it until its energy is released, the greater the acceleration it acquires.
Types of Gravitational Potential Energy
Other types of energy can materialize gravitational potential energy.
In many everyday situations, kinetic energy results from gravitational potential energy. When it comes to forcing systems, gravitational potential energy stabilizes with kinetic energy; even in its most basic form, both powers are assessed identically.
Because mechanical energy is the sum of kinetic and potential forces in a system, it takes gravitational potential energy into account. Many mechanical schemes and designs consider the possible action of gravity when operating.
The usage of hydraulic energy happens due to the action of moving water through a turbine, which creates an electric current. This procedure can only be carried out by moving vast amounts of water, which are then pushed by gravity, frequently from considerable heights to lower areas where the path’s stored energy is utilized.
Gravitational potential energy is latent even while standing; merely having a fixed height and mass provides gravitational potential energy.
Uses of Gravitational Potential Energy
Structures and processes are primarily intended to sustain and harness each element’s stagnant gravitational potential energy, resulting in a better user experience at tourist attractions and theme parks.
- Elevators must travel at a sufficient speed to be a viable alternative to using steps. Therefore sets of counterweights are utilized, which are released and provide enough potential and kinetic energy to safely and rapidly lift or lower huge loads.
- Heavy forklift systems employ systems similar to elevators, such as cranes, in which weights at the other end of the grip are used to steady the movement of goods, containers, cargoes, and other elements weighing a significant amount.
- In traditional watchmaking, we can see the conservation of gravitational potential energy in the continuous motion of pendulums, which use both kinetic and potential energy to maximize the functioning of these devices.
The Advantages and Disadvantages
This type of energy includes both good and negative characteristics that must be considered to be correctly comprehended.
- It is, in essence, a kind of energy that produces no waste or pollution.
- Because it is an essential attribute of bodies with mass in nature, its intensity is determined only by their height and mass.
- It may be acquired from any item at a specific height.
- Its use in engineering has improved the capacity to raise large bodies to tremendous heights.
- Because just a few parameters influence its behavior, once all of the data is known, it is pretty straightforward to compute and estimate this energy.
- While it may be used simply by having high objects, it is frequently necessary to employ other types of energy to lift the bodies, which is not always cost-effective.
- Because of the need to work at high altitudes and with enormous weights, gravitational potential energy can pose a risk to anybody at lower altitudes.
- Because it is directly reliant on gravity, it is an incredibly complicated potential energy to regulate when high velocities or various external causes manipulate it.
- The capacity to harness this energy is restricted by the system’s objects’ height or distance.
Mathematical Formula of Gravitational Potential Energy
To compute the gravitational potential energy explored and described by Newton, an equation that ensures to calculate the power energy of a body on the Earth’s surface is implemented:
m = refers to the mass of the object in kilogram (kg)
g = refers to the constant gravity that is 9.8 m/s2
h = is the height of the object in meters (m)
PE = refers to the potential energy in joules (J) or kg⋅m2/s2