Electrical energy is a form of energy produced by electrical charges. If the electrical charge is moving, it’s kinetic electrical energy. Moving electrical charge is called electricity or current. If the charge is stored, it’s potential electrical energy. The electrical charge comes from electrons, ions, or sometimes other charged particles, like protons. Electrical energy has the ability to apply force to move an object or to do work. You encounter electrical energy every day in the world around you.
Electrical Energy Examples
Any time you plug in an appliance or use a battery, you’re encountering an example of electrical energy. Electrical energy also results from the conversion from another type of energy. For example, solar cells change sunlight into electrical energy and wind turbines turn kinetic energy into electrical energy. Sometimes electrical energy takes the form of static electricity, like lightning or the shock you can get from touching a metal item. Another type of electrical energy is electrochemical energy, which occurs in batteries; ion gradients in cells, muscles, and nerves; and the shock produced by electric eels.
- Batteries (direct current)
- Outlets (alternating current)
- Electrical appliances (toasters, vacuum cleaners, lamps, refrigerators, blenders, computers)
- Battery-operated appliances (cell phones, flash lights, cameras)
- Solar cells
- Wind turbines
- Electric eels
- Proton beams
Electric Potential Energy Examples
Electrical energy comes from either electric kinetic energy or electric potential energy. But, once an electrical charge starts moving, it ceases to be “potential” and becomes “kinetic.” So, sometimes the definition of electrical energy typically leaves out any reference to electric potential energy. However, all electric charges have potential energy because they are either attracted to opposite charges or repelled by like charges.
Here are examples of potential electrical energy:
- A capacitor before it discharges.
- Two ions that are held apart.
- A battery before you connect it to anything.
- An outlet before you plug anything into it.
- Two point charges.
- Alekseev, G.N. (1986). Energy and Entropy. Moscow: Mir Publishers.
- Klotz, I.; Rosenberg, R. (1980). Chemical Thermodynamics – Basic Concepts and Methods (7th ed.). Wiley.