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


Thermal energy is radiant energy transmits in a form of heatwaves increasing the internal energy of the system. We shall see how conversion of gravitational potential energy to thermal energy takes place.

The object gains the gravitational potential energy when it is raised above the surface of the Earth which is converted into thermal energy when it hits the obstacle along its path due to the vibrations and impact imposed on each other.

How are gravitational potential and thermal energy related?

Thermal energy is a combination of gravitational potential energy as well.

The gravitational potential is the energy required to do the work in bringing the object from a far distance to the reference point. This increases the potential energy and hence the internal thermal energy of the object.

How is gravitational potential energy converted to thermal energy?

The gravitational potential energy of an object can be converted into thermal energy depending upon the consequences.

If the object possessing gravitational potential energy hits any obstacle in between then a part of its energy will be converted into thermal energy, and if it goes under vibrations then also this vibrational energy will be converted to thermal energy.

When gravitational potential energy is converted to thermal energy?

Thermal energy is a form of heat energy.

The gravitational potential energy is converted to thermal energy as the object falling from the height above the surface of the Earth strikes another object.

Upon hitting another object, this energy in the form of vibrations and friction is transmitted to both the object losing the gravitational potential energy. This vibration and friction generate heat energy which is thermal energy.

Where is gravitational potential energy converted to thermal energy?

The gravitational potential energy is converted to thermal energy at a point of bombardment.

As the object at a height above the ground heats the surface or any other object, the thermal energy is produced due to friction and vibrations.

Gravitational Potential Energy to Thermal Energy Formula

The gravitational potential energy is acquired by the object when it moves in a direction against the gravitational force of the Earth, that is, the potential energy gained by the object and is given by the relation,

[latex]U=mgh[/latex]

Whereas, thermal energy is the heat energy produced due to the vibration energy created due to the impact of the force. Well, it also changes the temperature of the system, and hence the thermal energy is given by the equation

[latex]Q=mc\Delta T[/latex]

Where [latex]\Delta T[/latex] is a change in temperature and

c is a specific heat

Gravitational potential energy converted to the thermal energy of the same object will increase the temperature of the system is then given by the relation

[latex]mgh=mc\Delta T[/latex]

[latex]gh=c\Delta T[/latex]

[latex]\Delta T=\frac{gh}{c}[/latex]

The change in temperature is dependent upon the height at which the object is raised which also states the gravitational potential energy gained by the object.

Gravitational Potential Energy to Thermal Energy Efficiency

The efficiency here is thermal energy produced by converting the gravitational potential energy of the object which is given as

[latex]\eta =\frac{Energy\ produced}{Energy\ supplied}[/latex]

[latex]\eta =\frac{mc\Delta T}{mgh}[/latex]

[latex]\eta =\frac{c\Delta T}{gh}[/latex]

The efficiency will be one if the entire gravitational potential energy is converted into thermal energy.

Gravitational Potential Energy to Thermal Energy Examples

Here is a list of gravitational potential to thermal energy examples:-

Waterfall

The flow of water making a fall from the cliff converts the mechanical energy and gains gravitational potential energy.

gravitational potential energy to thermal energy
Waterfall; Image Credit: pixabay

The continuous fall of the water and the abrasion of water molecules among each other and the rock surface produce thermal energy.

Magma Formation

Due to the gravitational potential, the rocks and debris submerged under the crust get heated up as the pressure and temperature increase down the depth.

Volcanoes

The hot magma gains the gravitational potential energy and moves in the upward direction to reach the surface of the Earth, releasing the thermal energy in the surrounding.

Firecrackers

The crackers explode as it reaches a certain height in the air. It radiates light energy and releases thermal energy in the atmosphere.

Firecrackers; Image Credit: pixabay

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is used to run a turbine to generate electrical energy. The molecules that grasp the heat energy from the depth of the Earth convert its phase into the vapors and accelerate upward gaining the gravitational potential energy which then collides on the surface of the turbine producing thermal energy.

Basketball Hitting on a Basket Edge

The basketball in the air possesses the gravitational potential energy that is converted into thermal energy when the ball strikes the basket gaining some heat.

Crash of Airplane

The airplane in the air possesses the kinetic as well as the gravitational potential energy high in the air. If it crashes due to some accident then the thermal energy is generated.

Crash of plane; Image Credit: pixabay

Evaporation

The water vapors evaporated in the air gains the gravitational potential energy at every rise in height. Due to this, the number of aerosol particles increases in the air, and the irradiated heatwaves remain trapped in the air increasing the thermal energy.

Dart

The dart upon striking the dartboard, the gravitational potential energy is converted into thermal energy due to frictional force.

Catching the Ball

When you catch the ball falling from a high height, you will feel the impact on your hand and it also transforms the energy of the ball into thermal energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does gravitational potential energy convert into vibrational energy?

The object accelerating upward gaining the gravitational potential energy might strike any other object in a way.

Upon hitting, the direction of its motion varies and this energy is transmitted in the form of a wave also producing the sound energy which travels in a longitudinal wave this is due to the vibrations generated by the oscillating waves through the object.

What is the impact of the object?

The impact is an equal and opposite force felts on the two objects due to the collision of the two objects.

The impact of the object is calculated as the total kinetic energy with which the object was moving divided by the distance that it covered.

AKSHITA MAPARI

Hi, I’m Akshita Mapari. I have done M.Sc. in Physics. I have worked on projects like Numerical modeling of winds and waves during cyclone, Physics of toys and mechanized thrill machines in amusement park based on Classical Mechanics. I have pursued a course on Arduino and have accomplished some mini projects on Arduino UNO. I always like to explore new zones in the field of science. I personally believe that learning is more enthusiastic when learnt with creativity. Apart from this, I like to read, travel, strumming on guitar, identifying rocks and strata, photography and playing chess. Connect me on LinkedIn - linkedin.com/in/akshita-mapari-b38a68122

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