What Increases Potential Energy: Detailed Facts And FAQs

In this article, we are going to discuss various facts about what increases potential energy.

The potential energy can be increased by increasing the mass of the object, by varying the distance between the two objects, decreasing the kinetic energy of the molecules, by freezing, by compressing or stretching, etc.

Which example increases potential energy

There are many examples which we can list of increasing potential energy. Lifting the weight from the ground increases the potential energy of the weight, ice cubes in the refrigerator, watermelon kept on the table, the person sitting on the chair, food has chemical potential energy, clothes hanging on the hanger in the cupboard, cushions stack one above the other, climbing up the hill, photo frame hanging on the wall, jumping on the trampoline, etc.

what increases potential energy
Compressing the object increases its potential energy

What increases the potential energy of the particles

The particle at rest has the potential energy associated with it which can be calculated using the coulombs formula for potential energy, according to which the potential of the particle depends upon the charge of the particle and how far it is located from the source and is formulated as below:-

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The potential energy of the particle depends upon the charge that they carry and vary depending upon the distance between the source differs. For positive charge, the potential energy of the particle will decrease as the distance from the source increases, whereas the potential energy of a particle carrying a negative charge, will increase as the distance between the source increases.

Therefore, the charge of the particles as well as the distance separating the two charge particles, both governs the potential energy stored by the particles.

Does heat increase potential energy

On subjecting any object to heat, the heat energy is supplied to the object. This energy multiplies the energy holding the covalent bonds of the atoms. The potential energy associated with the molecules holds the covalent bonds between the atoms.

The molecules become unstable due to immense energy supply and the bonds between the molecules breaks, which is then converted into kinetic energy, and particles become more agile and drift in random motions, thus decreasing potential energy.

Does freezing increases potential energy

When the object is kept in the system at freezing temperature, the object will give out energy in the form of heat into the surroundings to attain the equilibrium state for equating the temperature in the surrounding.

Releasing the heat energy by the object will reduce the kinetic energy of the particles in the object, thus decreasing the mobility of the molecules. This will result in the rise of the potential energy of the molecules constituting the object. Therefore, freezing increases the potential energy of the object.

Does potential energy increase with pressure

If the object is above the surface then it will attain some potential energy with respect to the height of the object from above the ground. If we go below the surface, the pressure and temperature gradient will increase by every 10kms. The potential energy decreases with pressure and is zero below the surface of the earth.

Does melting increase potential energy

To melt the material, it has to be subjected to heat. Heat will supply the energy to the molecules in the material. The molecules bonding to each other due to the potential of the covalent bonds will eventually break giving away the energy in the form of kinetic energy to the molecules. That is why the molecules in the system show more agility when supplied with heat energy.

Does potential energy increase with height

The potential energy of the object is directly proportional to the height of the object above the surface of the Earth. Every object exerts a force due to gravity, as the object is moved away from the gravitational attraction, it starts building its own potential. Hence the energy associated with the object along with increasing height also increases.

Does potential energy increase during phase change

It is understood that the kinetic energy of the gas is more compared to the solid. This is because molecules in the air are not tightly bonded and hence are free to move, whereas, in solid, the molecules are tightly bonded thus making it a compact mass and molecules are not free to move.

When solid is lain onto the heat source, the heat supplied breaks the covalent bonds between the atoms increasing the spacing between the molecules that results in a change of phase. Every time the phase change from solid to liquid and from liquid to gas, the potential energy of the mass is utilized to break the bonds between the atoms.

Hence, the potential energy decreases during each phase change. While the same is the opposite during the reversal process when the gas is compressed to form a liquid or liquid to solid.

Does potential energy increase during evaporation

Evaporation is a process of liquid turning into the gaseous phase. This results when the liquid gives out the heat received by its layers in the form of vapours to bring itself to the equilibrium state by matching the temperature of the system to the surrounding.

As the vopours commence their journey through the air opposing the gravity of the Earth, it inhales the energy from the surrounding building enough potential to drag above the atmosphere. Hence, the potential energy of the vapours increases as they move higher and higher above the surface.

What process increase potential energy

Increasing the distance of the objects from the ground: Potential energy of the object due to gravity is formulated as P.E.= mgh according to which potential energy intentionally depends upon the height of the object from above the ground as weight is constant, hence increasing the distance between the object and the surface of the Earth, its potential energy will be increase as the gravitational pull of the Earth on the object will decreases as we increase the distance between them both.

Minimizing the distance between the like charges: As the like charges repel from each other the work has to be done to bring the charges closer to each other. Hence, as the separation between the two becomes shorter the potential energy generated by each other also increased.

Extending the distance between the two attractive particles: If the two charges of oppositely charged particles are kept closer to each other then they will easily attract converting their potential into kinetic energy. Hence, the work has to be done in the direction opposite to the force of attraction thus building the potential energy which increases by enlarging the distance between both.

Condensation: The process of concentrating and concise the volume of the gas under high pressure to form a liquid is called condensation. The gas condenses in the form of small liquid droplets. If we take an example of the formation of clouds, the water vapours evaporated in the atmosphere and condensed into clouds in the troposphere. When clouds have enough potential energy, this energy is converted into kinetic energy and flows down to the earth’s surface in the form of rain. Hence condensation causes the gaining of potential energy.

Compression & Stretching: When we apply pressure on any object, we supply the energy which is stored by the object in the form of potential energy until the force is released. The potential energy due to both is given by the relation U=1/2kx^2 and is directly proportional to the change in configuration of the object.

See the source image
A boy stretching the pulley; Image credit: iStock

Freezing: lowering down the temperature lowers the kinetic energy of the molecules thus storing the potential energy.

Read more on What Does Not Affect Potential Energy: Detailed Facts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the kinetic energy of the particle depends upon shape and size of the objects?

The object accelerates from one place to another is because of the external force that results in the conversion of its potential energy into kinetic energy.

If the object is made up of a circular shape then it becomes easy to displace it than the objects having triangular or square shapes. The more the mass of the object greater the force required to displace and less will be it’s kinetic energy.

Does the potential energy of the object depend upon the mass of the object?

Potential energy is the energy stored by the object and is related to mass by the relation P.E.=mgh.

As per the above relation, the potential energy directly depends upon the mass; hence the potential energy will be greater for heavier objects.

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