What Affect Potential Energy: Detailed Facts

In this article, we are going to discuss various facts on what affect potential energy of the system.

The potential energy of a system may affect due to the gravity of the Earth, mass, temperature, height, displacement, work done, and there are various other factors.

What reduces potential energy

Every object in nature tends to occupy the least potential state as it can. This may be because every object governs upon the gravitational pull of attraction on every other object depending on the quantity of mass of the system. Every system in the surrounding is inbounded to attain the equilibrium state of rest.

what affect potential energy
The gravitational potential energy of the ball at height ‘h’

If the object is raised above the ground then it gains the potential energy V=mgh and the potential level increases as the distance of the object from the ground increases. But eventually, the object returns down to the lower state of the energy by converting its potential energy to kinetic energy while accelerating down to the Earth due to gravitational attraction. Hence gravity of the Earth along with the height of the object from the ground are both correlated for the reduction of the potential energy of the system.

The mass of the object does affect the potential energy of a system. Less the mass of the object, less will be its potential. A small unit of a mass at rest can produce an immense amount of energy. The potential energy is stored in the form of internal energy of a system which depends upon the heat stored by the mass and the work done by the system.

A change in the internal energy is equal to a change in the temperature of the system. If there is a fall in the temperature of the system then it is evident that there is a change in the internal energy of the system and hence the work done by the system is positive. Since there is work done, the potential energy of the system is reduced.

Moreover, the object with higher internal energy than the surrounding will have greater potential energy, thereby the object will tend to attain the lower potential energy state by transforming its energy to some other form, may be heat energy, and releasing it into the surrounding decreasing the temperature of the system. Hence, the potential energy decreases as the system endeavour to attain an equilibrium state.

If any object accelerates due to any external sources may be due to physical force, air resistance, or drag then the potential energy will be converted into kinetic energy. Hence potential energy of the object will reduce.

What affect potential energy

Mass: More the mass of the object more will be its energy. During free fall, the mass is equivalent to energy hence the body feels light and the potential energy is reduced.

Height: If the height of the object above the surface of the ground decreases the potential energy decreases and is zero on the surface of the Earth.

Temperature: With a decreasing temperature of the system, the potential energy of the system also lowers.

Gravity: Gravity always tends to pull the objects towards the center of the Earth, since potential at the surface of the Earth is zero, gravity is responsible for the reduction of the potential energy.

Internal energy of the system: The internal energy of the system is reduced only when the external work is done, hence the potential energy is decreased.

External work done: On application of the external force, the particles may displace from their original position. The displacement of the particle is due to the kinetic energy which is generated from the conversion of the potential energy of the particle. Hence, external forces result in the reduction of the potential energy of the system.

Elasticity: Greater the elastic property of the material, the more will be its capacity to store the potential energy.

Heat: When the heat is supplied to the system, its potential energy is increased. To attain the equilibrium state, the system transfers the heat into the surrounding. With decreasing heat of the system, the potential energy is also reduced.

Charge of the particle: The potential energy between the two similar charge particles will be higher whereas the potential energy of the two dissimilar charges will be less compared to the two like charges.

Distance: As the distance between the repellant increases, the potential energy will decrease; whereas, as the distance between the attractive charges will decrease, the potential energy will decrease.

What has the greatest effect on potential energy

The greatest effect on the potential energy is the gravitation force, elastic properties of the material, the distance separating the object from the source, and the mass of the object.

Since gravity is predominant on the Earth, it exerts a pull on all the objects on and around it. It majorly affects the potential of any object by attracting all the objects closer to the surface of the Earth and reducing it to zero.

Gravitational force is a weak attractive force existing in nature. Work done to keep the two systems bounded by the attractive pull from each other is negative since the work is done in a direction opposite the direction of the force of attraction. Thus, less potential energy is required as the distance between both increases. Since the gravity is inversely proportional to the distance between them.

Elasticity also shows the greatest effect on potential energy. Elasticity is the property of the material that can be stretched or compressed but the material regains its original shape and size.  The potential energy is stored in this elastic object either by compressing or stretching. While doing so, the kinetic energy used is converted into potential energy and is stored in the object, which when unhand, lets out the energy in the form of kinetic energy. The energy stored due to compression and stretching is so high in the elastic material that when released gives out a tremendous amount of energy that the object is displaced suddenly at a high speed.

What determines the potential of energy

The mass of the object and its acceleration due to gravity determines the quantity of energy an object can hold. Whereas, how much energy is available with the system to do the work, and how much is the capacity of the object to do the work will determine the potential of the energy.

The greater the potential energy stored by the object more will be the work done by the object.

For example, the work done to bring together the two equally charged particles will be greater than the work done to bring closer the two oppositely charged particles. Because, two dissimilar charges will attract hence no work has to be done on those, while like-charged particles will repel away from each other hence greater work is to be done to bring the similar charges closer to one another.

The potential energy of the system corresponds to the work done by the system. If the work done by the system is large then the potential energy used to do the work is more. This in turn depends upon the mass of the object, the more the mass, more will be the energy stored with it; because every unit of mass can produce a large amount of energy. Potential energy is directly proportional to the weight of the object and the acceleration due to the gravity of the Earth.

Read more on Does Height Affect Potential Energy: Detailed Facts, Examples And FAQs; Potential Energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Potential Energy?

Potential energy is energy stored by the object either by converting any form of energy to potential energy or by its relative position to another object, by static force, electric force, or any other medium.

There are various types of potential energies, and the most common are gravitational, elastic, nuclear, electric, magnetic, chemical potential energy. Depending upon these the potential energy depends upon various quantities like mass, height, elastic constant, capacitance, voltage, magnetization, magnetic field, acceleration due to gravity, displacement, the height of the object from the surface of the Earth, a charge of the particles, etc.

How is the gravitational potential energy different from electric potential energy?

Gravitational potential energy is the energy stored by the system by the gravitational pull of the system whereas the electric potential energy is the effect of the charged particles.

Gravitational potential energy depends upon the mass, acceleration due to gravity, and height of the object from the ground whereas electric potential energy depends upon the charge and the length of the separation between the two objects.


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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