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In the previous sections, we have learnt the basics of work and energy. Let us try to get a basic knowledge of potential energy through the following activity.
Activity - Procedure:
  • Take a bamboo stick and create a bow, as shown in the below figure.
  • Locate an arrow made of a light stick on it with one end supported by the stretched string.
  • Now stretch the string and release the arrow.
  • Observe the arrow flying off the bow.
  • Notice the change in the shape of the bow.
Discussion and Conclusions of the activity:
  • The potential energy stored in the bow due to the change of shape is thus used as kinetic energy in throwing off the arrow.
  • When the arrow is released from the bow, it acquires its original configuration as the elastic potential energy of the bow and stretched string converts into kinetic energy of the arrow.
Potential Energy:
Potential energy is energy that is stored or conserved in an object or substance. This stored energy is based on the position, arrangement or state of the object or substance.
You can think of it as the energy that has the 'potential' to do work. The stored energy will be released, when the position, arrangement or state of the object changes.
Potential energy is mainly classified into two types:
  1. Gravitational potential energy
  2. Elastic potential energy
Gravitational potential energy is energy in an object that is held in a vertical position.
Elastic potential energy is energy stored in objects that can be stretched or compressed.