# How To Find How Much Potential Energy Is Converted To Kinetic Energy?

Potential energy is the stored energy an object has due to its position or chemical configuration. For example, a ball held at a height above the ground has potential energy due to gravity. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion that an object has due to its movement. The goal of this article is to explain how to calculate how much potential energy gets converted into kinetic energy.

## The Equation Relating Potential and Kinetic Energy

The equation that relates potential energy and kinetic energy is:

Kinetic Energy = Initial Potential Energy – Final Potential Energy

Where:

- Kinetic Energy is the energy of motion an object has.
- Initial Potential Energy is the stored energy an object has due to its position before it starts moving.
- Final Potential Energy is the stored energy an object has due to its position after it finishes moving.

This equation shows that the kinetic energy gained (or lost) by an object is equal to the change in potential energy of that object. The potential energy changes from the initial position to the final position, and that difference is converted into kinetic energy.

## Finding Potential Energy

Potential energy depends on an object’s mass, gravity, and height. The equation for gravitational potential energy is:

PE = mgh

Where:

- PE is gravitational potential energy in joules (J)
- m is mass in kilograms (kg)
- g is the acceleration due to gravity, which is 9.8 m/s2 on Earth
- h is height in meters (m)

So to find the potential energy of an object, you need to know its mass, the acceleration due to gravity, and its height above some reference point. Gravity and the object’s height give it potential energy that can later be converted into kinetic energy.

## Finding Initial Potential Energy

To find the initial potential energy of an object, you need to know its initial height and mass. The potential energy formula is:

PE_{initial} = mgh_{initial}

Where:

- PE
_{initial}is the initial potential energy - m is the mass of the object
- g is the acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s2 on Earth)
- h
_{initial}is the initial height of the object before falling

To find the initial potential energy, simply plug the objects mass, the acceleration due to gravity, and the initial height into the formula above. Make sure the initial height is in meters and mass is in kilograms to get the potential energy in Joules.

## Finding Final Potential Energy

To find the final potential energy of an object, you’ll need to know its final height. Potential energy depends on an object’s height relative to the ground or a reference point. Use the following equation to calculate final potential energy:

**Final Potential Energy = Mass x Gravity x Final Height**

Where:

- Mass is in kilograms (kg)
- Gravity is 9.8 m/s2 on Earth
- Final height is in meters (m)

For example, if a 5 kg object falls from a height of 10 m to a final height of 2 m above the ground, you would calculate its final potential energy as:

**Final Potential Energy = 5 kg x 9.8 m/s2 x 2 m = 98 J**

The key is to plug in the object’s mass, gravity, and its final height after falling to find the final potential energy.

## Finding Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy depends on an object’s mass and velocity. The kinetic energy (K) of an object is calculated using the following equation:

K = 1/2 x m x v^{2}

Where m is the object’s mass in kilograms (kg) and v is the object’s velocity in meters per second (m/s).

To find an object’s kinetic energy, you need to know its mass and velocity. Mass can be measured directly in kg. Velocity is calculated by taking the distance traveled over time in meters per second (m/s).

Once you have the object’s mass and velocity, plug them into the kinetic energy equation above to calculate the kinetic energy in joules (J). The kinetic energy will be a positive value if the object is moving and zero if it is at rest.

## Putting it All Together

To find how much potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, you need to follow these steps:

- Identify the object in question and the relevant heights.
- Use the equation for gravitational potential energy (PE=mgh) to calculate the initial potential energy based on the starting height.
- Use the same equation to calculate the final potential energy based on the ending height.
- Calculate the kinetic energy using the equation KE=1/2mv^2.
- Subtract the final potential energy from the initial potential energy to find the change in potential energy (ΔPE).
- The amount of potential energy converted to kinetic energy is equal to the change in potential energy (ΔPE).

By following these steps methodically, you can accurately determine how much potential energy from gravity was converted into kinetic energy of motion for an object.

## Example Problem

Here is an example problem showing how to calculate the potential energy converted to kinetic energy:

A 2kg block is lifted 2 meters off the ground. It is then dropped and falls freely until hitting the ground. Calculate the potential energy converted to kinetic energy.

First, calculate the initial potential energy. The equation for potential energy is PE = mgh. Plugging in the values:

PE = (2 kg) x (9.8 m/s2) x (2 m)

PE = 39.2 J

Next, since all the potential energy gets converted to kinetic energy, the kinetic energy will equal the initial potential energy calculated above. So:

KE = PE

KE = 39.2 J

Therefore, the potential energy converted to kinetic energy is 39.2 J.

## Common Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that students make when calculating the potential energy converted to kinetic energy. Here are some of the most frequent errors:

**Forgetting about gravity** – The equation for potential energy depends on the acceleration due to gravity, which is 9.8 m/s2 on Earth’s surface. Forgetting to include the gravity constant will lead to an incorrect potential energy calculation.

**Forgetting to square the velocity term** – Kinetic energy depends on the square of an object’s velocity, not just the velocity itself. Forgetting to square the velocity when calculating kinetic energy is a frequent mistake.

**Using the wrong heights** – To find the change in potential energy, you need to use the initial and final heights correctly. Sometimes students mix up or forget which height is initial and which is final, leading to an incorrect potential energy change.

**Plugging in values incorrectly** – When calculating potential and kinetic energy changes, it’s important to carefully plug the values into the equation correctly. Mixing up masses, velocities, or heights will give incorrect results.

Being aware of these common pitfalls will help avoid making mistakes when calculating potential and kinetic energy changes from a given problem scenario.

## Conclusion

To summarize, calculating the amount of potential energy converted to kinetic energy follows these key steps:

- Identify the object or system you want to analyze.
- Determine the initial potential energy based on the object’s starting position.
- Determine the final potential energy based on the object’s ending position.
- Use the kinetic energy equation to find the kinetic energy of the object.
- Subtract the final potential energy from the initial potential energy to find the amount converted to kinetic energy.

The key takeaways are:

- Potential energy depends on an object’s position, while kinetic energy depends on its motion.
- As potential energy decreases, kinetic energy increases by the same amount (and vice versa).
- Follow the step-by-step process to accurately determine energy conversion.
- Common mistakes involve using the wrong equations or values. Always double check your work.

With this understanding of relating potential and kinetic energy, you can analyze a wide variety of scenarios to determine how energy transitions between different forms.