Mechanical energy is the energy that a body or system has due to its velocity, and that is also capable of performing work.
According to this concept, mechanical energy is the total of all mechanical energies operating on it, namely kinetic energy, potential energy, and elastic potential energy.
Because mechanical energy is a physical representation of a particular effort, it may be utilized to generate many forms of energy, such as wind energy, generated by the kinetic energy of air currents.
Equally relevant is the issue of hydraulic energy, which considers both the kinetic and potential energy of water flow.
Physics has been investigating mechanical energy principles for a very long time, with renowned names such as James Prescott Joule and even Sir Isaac Newton able to create the scientific laws that control physical life as we know it.
Since ancient times, humans have harnessed this sort of energy to perform various tasks. From the functioning of pulleys and sailing ships to the most recent applications that allow the generation of electrical energy through kinetic or potential energy sources.
Examples of Mechanical Energy with Pictures
By just glancing around, we may see several examples of mechanical energy. Here are a few easy examples to assist us in comprehending the fundamentals of this form of energy.
Vehicles for Transportation
A vehicle converts the effort produced by an engine into kinetic energy, which allows the vehicle to go at a specific speed.
Combustion engines use the potential energy of fuels to carry out physicochemical operations that allow the vehicle’s whole mechanical system to work.
Trampolines are an illustration of how mechanical energy appears as elastic energy.
When the weight of a body deforms the surface of a trampoline, the energy used to deform the surface is turned into elastic energy.
When it returns to its original shape, it pushes in the opposite direction of the body that created the surface deformation, transferring kinetic energy to the body or item that has been bounced off the trampoline.
Windmills work by using the kinetic energy of air currents to propel their blades.
This kinetic energy is turned into mechanical work to power gears that grind grain.
Windmills were one of the first significant human creations that allowed us to fully use the wind’s kinetic energy (wind power).
Hydroelectric Power Stations
A hydroelectric power plant uses the kinetic and potential energy of water currents to power a set of turbines linked to an electric generator.
Hydroelectric power facilities may generate alternating current in this manner, which is subsequently supplied into the power system without fossil fuels.
The Swinging Pendulums
Even though they are rarely observable in everyday life, pendulums were among the earliest examples used by scientists to demonstrate how mechanical energy works.
A pendulum swings indefinitely using kinetic energy derived from the gravitational potential energy of its weight. The kinetic energy of the pendulum is converted into potential energy when it reaches its maximum point of flight.
When it returns to earth to perform another oscillation, this potential energy is converted back into kinetic energy. Pendulums operate on a cyclic principle.
How is Mechanical Energy created?
Mechanical energy is created when a body or system does work. This form of energy may be sent from one body to the next.
In other words, mechanical energy is created when mechanical forces are applied to a body. Elasticity, gravity, and other forces are examples of such forces. Mechanical energy is converted to kinetic energy when it causes the body to move. Similarly, when energy is absorbed and kept by the body, it is stored as potential energy.
Mechanical energy, often known as kinetic energy, is quantified in the International System using the unit of Joule (J), which takes into consideration mass in kilograms (kg) and speed in meters per second (m/sec).
Mechanical energy may be classified into different categories, used to characterize the various physical events that exhibit mechanical work. We will explain what they are in more detail below.
Kinetic energy is the energy obtained by the motion of a body or system, and it is proportional to a body’s displacement and velocity. This form of energy is what we observe when an item moves due to some energy being applied to it. When we walk, for example, the body converts the chemical energy contained in the body into kinetic energy.
Potential energy is energy related to the state or location of one thing to another. Similarly, potential energy is stored within a body based on its ability to conduct labor.
Gravitational Potential Energy
Gravitational potential energy is connected to the location of one item to another and also takes into account how gravity operates on a body. This form of energy is expressed when an item is positioned at a given height above the ground since the higher the object’s distance from the earth, the larger its stored potential energy.
Elastic Potential Energy
Elastic potential energy is connected to any material’s capacity to deform when a mechanical force is applied to it and then returned to its original position. This sort of deformation may be seen in the operation of springs and trampolines.
Mechanical energy has numerous applications since its principles are connected to practically everything. However, for informative purposes, we shall go over some of the most common applications of mechanical energy.
- Almost all power plants employ mechanical energy sources to create electrical energy.
- Mechanical energy enables the functioning of electric generators in all circumstances, from wind energy utilized in wind farms to hydraulic energy used in hydroelectric power plants. It has been used to power transportation throughout history.
- Mechanical energy is used by ships with sails to airplanes and motor vehicles to move at a specific pace.
- The Romans built massive aqueducts and hydraulic systems in ancient times to provide a continual supply of fluids for their towns. To do this, they employed mechanical power concepts to enable variables such as gravity and slopes to carry water.
- Living beings generate mechanical energy from the energy stored in their bodies, allowing them to move and conduct physical labor.
- Mechanical energy is also utilized by gears, pulleys, levers, and other mechanical devices that man has used for innumerable activities throughout history.
The Advantages and Disadvantages
The primary benefits and drawbacks of mechanical energy are listed below.
- Mechanical energy that is employed intelligently optimizes physical work.
- This energy is plentiful, as it can be found in practically everything.
- It enables the generation of electrical energy through systems that harness it.
- It is affordable and easily available, as it may be found in nature in various forms, including wind, waves, and ocean currents.
- It is a very versatile energy with several uses and applications in daily life.
- Mechanisms that use mechanical energy are prone to wear and tear and need routine maintenance.
- Because it is dependent on the movement of one or more bodies, it is frequently prone to failure. Other external energy sources must be employed to deliver potential or kinetic energy to the body or system to create mechanical energy.
- After a set activity time, mechanical energy-using machinery typically reaches the end of its useful life.
- Pure mechanical energy cannot be transferred for lengthy periods or over great distances.
- Many industries and devices based on mechanical principles are becoming outdated and replaced by more efficient and cost-effective alternatives.
Mathematical Formula of Mechanical Energy
The mechanical energy is computed using the formula:
E = mechanical energy
U = potential energy
K = kinetic energy