Gravitational Potential Energy To Electrical Energy: How to Convert, When, Where, Examples And Facts


Gravitational potential energy to electrical energy conversion is one of the energy that occur in nature all by its own and spontaneous. This kind energy transfer is quite rare to witness and very few examples could be cited.

Gravitational potential energy means when the potential energy is been witnessed due to the gravitational force been applied. Potential energy is put into work due gravitational force presence. We shall see few examples regarding gravitational potential energy to electrical energy.

Hydroelectric Dam

Generally a dam is constructed over heavy flowing river or stream in order to collect the excess water in a particular area. The man built dam has several types in itself and hydroelectric is one of those.

One of the types is the hydroelectric dam which will collect the water behind the dam and will store the water until release. The gravitational potential energy helps the water to flow and hit the shafts in the turbine.

Here in this type of dam the water will be stored at the back end, when required the water will be released and this will help the turbine to wind around. Instantly, the electricity is generated when the turbines rotates in a constant motion.

So it is how the gravitational potential energy is converted to the electrical energy in such hydroelectric dams.

gravitational potential energy to electrical energy
“Hydroelectric Dam” Image Credits: Wikimedia

Gravity Battery

Gravity battery is one of the types of battery which stores the energy in it as gravitational potential energy. The device has a grid in it which stores the excess energy and it will used as electrical energy.

Basically a battery is a device which stores energy which can be put into use when in need. The energy in it is first stores as potential energy, also when it comes to gravity battery the energy is simply stored as gravity potential energy.

So when we use the battery for several purposes the energy stored as gravity potential energy is now converted to chemical energy which in turn finally used as electrical energy. by this way we can tell that the conversion of gravitational potential energy to electrical energy takes place.

“Scientists energizing the batteries” Image Credits: Wikimedia

Falling Electric Toy Car

The electronic toy car which falls can also be considered under the category of energy conversion of gravitational potential energy to electrical energy. Basically this is just an imaginative section where we can find the concepts deep in this section.

Let’s assume an electric car which works horizontally, that is a conventional car which runs straight and this converts the potential energy to electrical energy. But what happens if the electric car is made to run vertically and falls under gravity is the question here.

When an electric car is run over a surface and made to run in the downward direction the gravitational potential energy comes into play so here the gravitational potential energy to electrical energy conversion takes places.

“Toy cars which could fall off due to gravity” Image Credits: Wikimedia

Gravitationally Powered Dynamo

Generally a dynamo is device inside a generator which creates energy when the commutator rotates. But gravitationally powered dynamo is the one which stores energy in terms of gravity and that we call it as the gravity potential energy.

Dynamo is one single device which is let to operate within the generator in order to produce electricity. In context to gravity the dynamo will store the energy in terms of gravitational potential energy which is put into use for later.

“Dynamo on bicycle wheel” Image Credits: Wikimedia

How are gravitational potential and electrical energy related?

Battery is one of the famous examples which work on the conversion of potential energy to electrical energy. But here in this section we are dealing with the gravitational potential energy.

Similarly the gravitational potential energy is the one which stores gravitational energy in terms of potential energy and it is converted to the electrical energy. It is the process where the electrical energy is been converted from the potential energy.

By this way we will understand the whole process of conversion of such energy is rare to witness and very few examples exists to explain such phenomenon.

How is gravitational potential energy converted to electrical energy?

Let us see this using an example, in a hydroelectric dam the water is stored at the back of the dam. The stored water possesses some energy in terms of potential energy and when the water is let out it basically flows downwards.

So when the water falls downwards while stored it will fall on the turbine and make it to move. This in turn will rotate the shafts which produces the electricity. It is how the energy conversion of gravitational potential energy to electrical energy takes place in general per se.

Conversion of potential energy to electrical energy could be executed using certain devices. So for example the grids in a device will store the gravitational energy as the potential energy which could be converted to any energy.

When gravitational potential energy is converted to electrical energy?

The gravitational potential energy is converted to electrical energy when the potential energy to converted to electrical energy having strong influence of gravity in the whole process.

Basically gravity means the pulling force which acts downward and the gravitational potential energy is simply the potential energy stored and released in downward direction.

Where is gravitational potential energy converted to electrical energy?

Hydro power plant is one of the good examples that explain where the energy conversion takes place. The hydro power plant is mainly built to produce electricity using the energy available in nature.

Basically the hydro power plant uses potential energy stored in water for further use. So when the water is released it will fall downwards due to gravity and this we call it as the gravitational potential energy.

So when the water falls the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy at that instant and then this energy finally used to generate electricity which is the conversion of gravitational potential energy to electrical energy.

Gravitational potential energy to electrical energy formula

Although there is no exact formula for gravitational potential energy to electrical energy but we can rearrange the formula of the potential energy to kinetic energy and modify according to the needs.

The formula for potential energy to electrical energy is given by,

V = k × [q/r]

Where, v= potential energy; k=kinetic energy; q= charge responsible for the movement of electron; r= distance between any point to the centre of the charge.

Gravitational potential energy to electrical energy efficiency

Efficiency of a particular energy conversion, that is, the gravitational potential energy to electrical energy depends on the kind of device which converts it in presence of strong gravity influence.

For example when hydroelectric dam has enough efficiency in order to convert the potential energy to electrical energy under strong influence of gravity we know that the conversion has well taken place.

The hydroelectric dams have 95% of efficiency and some have 80%, these depends on the speed of water and how much energy is been converted.

Summary

We now know that gravitational potential energy cannot be directly converted to electrical energy directly but there are other means too. So, it first has to be converted to kinetic energy and then to rest of the energy. And here we see that gravitational potential energy is primarily converted to kinetic energy and later to electrical energy.

Keerthana Srikumar

I am Keerthana Srikumar, a post-graduate in Physics. I’m currently pursuing PhD in the area of thin films. I always have a passion for writing and to inspire as many willing minds through my words. Physics is a subject that is used by everyone as basics to navigate their lives. I use writing as a tool to explain it in the most understandable and simplest and way possible. You can connect me through: Email: keerthana48@gmail.com

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