Energy is All Around Us.

We use energy every day. It surrounds us in different forms, such as light, heat, and electricity. Our bodies use the energy stored in molecules of substances like carbohydrates and protein to move, breathe, grow, and think. We also use energy to do work and to play. Humans have invented thousands of machines and appliances that use energy to make our work easier, to heat our homes, and to get ourselves from place to place. Some of these machines use electricity, while others, like automobiles, use the energy stored in substances such as gasoline.

A bolt of lightning is visible example of several forms of energy: electricity, light, heat and sound.

The two most common forms of energy we use are heat and electricity. Heat is the energy of moving particles in any substance. The faster the particles move, the warmer the substance is. Electricity is the energy of electrons moving along a conductor like a copper electrical wire.

Most of the machines around us use either heat or electricity to do their work. A good example is an electric clothes dryer. The dryer uses an electric motor to turn the drum that tumbles the clothes inside. The same motor also turns a fan that blows air through the clothes as they tumble. Lastly, a heating element creates large amounts of heat, which is used to dry the clothes more quickly

Besides heat and electricity, we use many other forms of energy every day of our lives. The list below summarizes some of the more common forms of energy and how they are generated and where they are often used.

Form of Energy What is it? How is it generated? Where or how is it used?
Heat The energy of moving particles (atoms and molecules) of liquid, gas, or solid matter

  • by burning fuels such as oil, natural gas, gasoline or diesel
  • by solar radiation coming from the sun, which warms the air, water, and ground
  • from nuclear energy
  • by the Earth’s core, which can provide usable heat from ground sources (e.g., hot springs)
  • from electricity passing through a heating element

  • heating air and water in homes and offices
  • melting and shaping materials such as metal and plastic
  • cooking
  • transportation (e.g., combustion engines)

Light Radiant energy, in the form of photons

  • by the sun
  • using fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs
  • from light-emitting diodes
  • lasers
  • by burning fuels such as wood (biomass) and natural gas

  • illuminating working and living spaces
  • laser surgery
  • communication and advertising, such as illuminated signs
  • data transmission, for example on fiber-optic networks

Electricity Energy of electrons moving through a conductor

  • by photovoltaic panels
  • by alternator or dynamo generators
  • from batteries
  • using hydrogen fuel cells
  • from friction (static electricity)

  • turning motors
  • generating heat
  • running computers
  • communication systems and data transmission

Radio waves Electro-magnetic energy

  • by radio transmitters
  • microwave emitters

  • cooking in microwave ovens
  • voice communication (e.g,. radio, TV, cell phones)
  • radar navigation

Mechanical The force of moving objects

  • falling water at hydro-electricity facilities
  • motors
  • springs and elastic bands

  • automobiles, aircraft, other forms of transportation
  • many home appliances and tools
  • generating electricity

Sound Vibrations passing through gaseous, liquid, or solid matter (such as air, water and soil)

  • using speakers
  • by vibrating surfaces

  • musical instruments
  • sonar navigation
  • communication

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