Explore 11 real-life examples of gravitational potential energy, vividly illustrating this fundamental physics concept in everyday situations
We’re interested about the weight’s gravitational potential energy, which is held in an object as a result of its vertical position or the object’s gravitational pull to the Earth. The mass of the object and its height above the zero-reference point are the determining factors of the gravitational potential energy. This article lists out some common examples of gravitational potential energy in our daily life.
Object raised to a height
The introduction itself gives a premise to this example.
Consider a mass m that is being lifted vertically through a height h against gravity, through a system of pulleys. Here, the force exerted by lifting the box and the force exerted by gravity, Fg, are equal. Hence, net work done is equal to the gravitational potential energy and it is calculated by multiplying the amount of the gravitational force, Fg, by the vertical distance, h, that the weight has covered.
Withdrawal of these forces shall cause the object to fall back to the ground, thereby converting the gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy. The gravitational potential energy at specified height h is presumed to remain steady. The zero of gravitational potential energy is intriguingly an arbitrary value. Negative gravitational potential energy can be witnessed below the zero point, which is also referred to as datum.
Water behind the dam wall
Indirect ways of utilizing gravitational potential energy can be seen in the hydropower industries.
Accumulation of gravitational potential energy is caused by the difference in the height of the water behind a hydroelectric dam and the water on the opposite side. The falling down of the water from a height transforms its potential energy into kinetic energy, that rotates the turbine to generate electricity.
Vehicle parked at a hilltop
The vehicle transfers kinetic energy to potential energy as it climbs the hill.
Rising of the vehicle to a certain height above the ground level has enabled it to reach a gravitational potential energy of mgh, where m is the vehicle’s mass, g is the gravitational constant, and h is the height above ground attained.
Once the vehicle starts descending down the hill, it develops velocity which transforms the potential energy into kinetic energy. The potential energy stored in the vehicle’s location at the crest of the slope is converted to kinetic energy.
Yo-yo waiting to be released
Yo-yo witnesses the accumulation of certain potential energy before it is released.
The yo-yo has gravitational potential energy while it is held above the ground since gravity is already dragging it down. This potential energy in the yo-yo is converted to kinetic energy when it is dropped, which grows as the distance between the yo-yo and ground decreases. As the yo-yo is held back up again it again converts the kinetic energy and stores it in as potential energy.
River water at the top of a waterfall
Gravitational potential energy exists in the water at the summit of a really high waterfall.
High velocity of the water falling from the top of the waterfall transforms the gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy. When the flowing water from the top collides with the mass of water at the base of the waterfall, water splashes violently and chaotically in all areas.
A part of the kinetic energy obtained by water is now converted to kinetic energy of dynamic equilibrium. This raises the inner energy of the water and warms it up at the bottom of the falls.
A book on a table right on the verge of falling
A book at the edge of a table, just moments away from fallings also exhibits gravitational potential energy.
The gravitational pull is opposed by some external forces when the book is raised above the ground to keep it on the table. The gravitational pull provides the book an attractive energy if it falls back to the floor. The action of the book falling from the table experiences acceleration due to gravity which causes the transformation of the potential energy into kinetic energy.
The height, mass, and strength of an object affect all of its energy of gravity more than the point of reference. A book on a table thus possesses less energy of gravity than a book on top of a bigger office, and less energy of gravity than a heavier book on a single table.
A child at the top of a slide
Gravitational potential energy is any stored energy that can fall or move.
Any entity on the verge of falling experiences gravitational potential energy. The youngster has gravitational potential energy atop the slide at the start. Because some energy was converted to heat due to the friction on the slide, when the youngster reaches the bottom, he or she possesses both kinetic and thermal energy.
Giant ball of a demolishing machine
The gravitational potential energy of the demolishing ball is decided upon by the heavy mass of the ball and the height to which it is elevated.
A direct relationship exists between gravitational potential energy and an object’s mass as well as its height above the datum. The elevation causes an increment in the gravitational potential energy of the object.
A child on a swing
A child enjoying on a swing in a to and fro motion develops gravitational potential energy owing its height above the ground.
The gravitational potential energy of a child can be calculated by measuring the youngster’s mass and height above the ground. The objectâ€™s gravitational potential energy increases the number of times the height above the ground is increased.
Ripe fruit before it detaches from the branch
The kinetic and gravitational potential energy of any object that rises or falls changes.
The force of gravity is an attraction between two or more points or huge masses, similar to that between the masses and the earth. It is the determining factor in the weight identification and hence, the fruit possesses gravitational energy in this condition.
A bird sitting on a tree branch
The bird perched atop a tree branch has gravitational potential energy.
This is owing to the fact that while it is on the tree, it is farther off the ground than on the ground.
Flower pot hanging off of the deck
A flower pot hanging from a reference is another example.
A hanging flower pot possesses gravitational potential energy owing to its mass at a certain height from the ground or the datum.
Airplane flying overhead
When the plane takes off, the engines emit chemical energy in terms of fuel which converts into mechanical energy during the flight, that drives the mechanical operations like the spinning of fan blades or propellers etc.
The mechanical energy creates thrust, which increases the airplane’s speed. Mechanical energy is turned into kinetic energy when the airplane’s speed increases. When the aircraft starts gaining altitude, this mechanical energy starts converting into gravitational potential energy.
- Example of kinetic to sound energy
- Mechanical energy to radiant energy
- Can elastic potential energy be negative
- Solar energy to heat energy
- Is kinetic energy conserved in an elastic collision
- Example of mechanical to kinetic energy
- Example of radiant energy to electrical energy
- Potential energy vs potential difference
- Can potential energy be negative
- Uses of kinetic energy
I have a background in Aerospace Engineering, currently working towards the application of Robotics in the Defense and the Space Science Industry. I am a continuous learner and my passion for creative arts keeps me inclined towards designing novel engineering concepts.
With robots substituting almost all human actions in the future, I like to bring to my readers the foundational aspects of the subject in an easy yet informative manner. I also like to keep updated with the advancements in the aerospace industry simultaneously.