If you’ve studied energy before, you know that energy can fall into two different main categories: potential and kinetic. Potential energy is essentially stored energy. When atoms’ valence electrons are kept from jumping around, that atom is able to hold–and store–potential energy.
On the other hand, kinetic energy is essentially energy that moves or moves something else. Kinetic energy transfers its energy onto other objects in order to generate force on that object. In kinetic energy, the electrons are free to move between valence shells in order to create electrical energy. Thus, the potential energy stored in that atom is converted to kinetic energy…and ultimately, electrical energy.
So, is electrical energy potential or kinetic? The answer is both! However, electrical energy cannot be both potential and kinetic at the same time. When you see electrical energy enacting work on another object, it’s kinetic, but right before it was able to do that work, it was potential energy.
Here’s an example. When you’re charging your phone, the electricity moving from the wall outlet into your phone battery is kinetic energy. But a battery is designed to hold electricity to use later. That held energy is potential energy, which can become kinetic energy when you’re ready to turn your phone on and use it.
Electromagnets–like the one above–work because electricity and magnetism are closely related.
What Does Electrical Energy Have to Do With Magnetism?
You’ve probably played with a magnet at some point in your life, so you know that magnets are objects that can attract or repel other objects with a magnetic field.
But what you might not know is that magnetic fields are caused by a moving electrical charge. Magnets have poles, a north pole and a south pole (these are called dipoles). These poles are oppositely charged–so the north pole is positively charged, and the south pole is negatively charged.
We already know that atoms can be positively and negatively charged, too. It turns out that magnetic fields are generated by charged electrons that are aligned with one another! In this case, the negatively charged atoms and the positively charged atoms are at different poles of a magnet, which creates both an electrical and a magnetic field.
Because positive and negative charges are a result of electrical energy, that means that magnetism is closely related to systems of electrical energy. In fact, so are most interactions between atoms, which is why we have electromagnetism. Electromagnetism is the interrelated relationships between magnetic and electric fields.
Check out some hair-raising examples of electrical energy below. #AnotherDadJoke