# Kinetic energy - the energy of moving objects

When something is moving it has energy. Imagine trying to stop a run away horse or a rugby forward moving at speed.

This type of energy is called the KINETIC ENERGY of the object.

It is quite easy to see what things affect the kinetic energy.

There will be more energy 'locked away' in a massive lorry that is moving at 20 m/s than in a motorbike travelling at the same speed.

Also the faster it goes the more kinetic energy the lorry will have.

A lorry moving at high speed will have much more kinetic energy than a lorry moving at low speed.

Therefore a fast moving car or lorry will cause more damage in an accident than a slow moving one because this kinetic energy has to be turned into other forms including sound, heat and stress on the other vehicles.

The kinetic energy of an object therefore depends on two things:
(a) the mass of the object (m)
(b) its speed (v)

The formula for kinetic energy of an object of mass m travelling at speed v is:

Kinetic energy (k.e) = ½mv2

Example problems
1. What is the kinetic energy of a 500 kg horse running at 15 m/s?
Kinetic energy = ½x500x15x15 = 112 500 J

2. What is the kinetic energy of a one milligram raindrop falling at 0.5 mm/s.
Kinetic energy = ½x0.000 001x0.00052 = 0.000 000 000 000 125 J !
Notice here that the mass must be in kg and the velocity in m/s.

## CHANGING POTENTIAL ENERGY TO KINETIC ENERGY

When an object falls to the ground all its potential energy changes to kinetic energy (ignoring friction with the air). When it hits the ground this kinetic energy is changed to sound and heat. However when something slides down a hill it looses potential energy and gains some kinetic energy. The kinetic energy it gains will always be a little less than the potential energy it looses, the rest will be lost as sound and heat due to friction.

The rocket shown in the diagram had a huge mass at take off but because its speed was very low its kinetic energy was low. As the speed increased the kinetic energy rose rapidly even though the rocket was getting lighter as it burnt fuel.

Example problem
A boy of mass 25 kg slides down a slope. If the vertical distance that he travels is 2 m and he reaches a speed of 5 m/s at the bottom of the slope how much energy has been converted to heat and sound?

Gravitational potential energy lost = mgh = 25 x 10 x 2 = 500 J
Kinetic energy gained = ½x25x52 = 312.5 J
Energy converted to heat and sound = 178.5 J
(Notice that in all kinetic energy calculations it is the mass of the object used (kg) and NOT its weight (N).)

A VERSION IN WORD IS AVAILABLE ON THE SCHOOLPHYSICS CD