The driving force behind everything

The driving force behind everything

The standard, scientific definition for energy was probably the easiest to remember after Newton’s third law. You could score a few marks with ease or escape your teacher’s wrath if you simply say, “energy is the ability or capacity to do work.”

To break down that statement into simple, digestible pieces of information, think of energy as the battery that powers you.

Even if you’re just walking, you’re doing some “work” as your legs are applying a reasonable amount of force to take you from point A to point B. Now, imagine that the distance between point A and B keep increasing. You’ll obviously need to do more “work” to reach Point B. Therefore, your battery needs to pump out more “energy”.

In short, you’re giving away energy to be used up as work. The “amount” of energy that your battery gives is referred to as the “ability or capacity” to do work.

If we dig deeper into the previous example, we’ll see that there are two kinds of energy at work, namely:

  • The energy that powers your battery i.e. the energy derived from food and stored by your body. This kind of stored energy is also called Potential Energy.
  • The work done by your body while you walk. This is also called Kinetic Energy and is associated with objects in motion.

The example above only considers a single person and if we were to extrapolate the same to processes on a larger scale, we end up with different types of energy like

  • Solar Energy
  • Wind Energy
  • Geothermal Energy
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Electrical Energy
  • Biomass Energy
  • Thermal Energy
  • Sound Energy, etc.

Although the names are varied and large in number, the underlying principle is that one form of energy is transferred into another form of energy. This forms the basis of the Law of Conservation of Energy which states that “energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred from one form to another.” Everything from a simple bulb to the most complex machine obeys this law.

Now, let’s go back and take a quick look at our example. The energy stored by your body is converted into Kinetic energy as long as you keep replenishing your stored or potential energy with food. This form of energy is classified as  a “renewable energy source” since you can keep yourself energized by sourcing and consuming food without worrying about the risk of depletion.

However, if there was an apocalypse and you’re forced to stay indoors, the energy that you get from food would now be classified as “non-renewable” as it’s prone to being depleted.

All the types of energy given above can be classified into either renewable or non-renewable energy. Given below are a few examples for both kinds of energy or sources from which the energy is obtained.

Renewable Energy

  • Solar Energy
  • Wind Energy
  • Geothermal Energy
  • Biomass Energy, etc.

Non-Renewable Energy Sources

  • Energy from fossil fuels like coal.
  • Energy obtained from mining minerals and ores.
  • Nuclear Energy.

After gauging the adverse effects that non-renewable sources have on the environment and the rate at which they’re being consumed worldwide, the research on discovering efficient ways to utilize renewable sources has picked up pace.

Although, our planet may not seem as though it’s amidst an apocalypse, the warning bells have tolled and it’s up to us to pave a cleaner, more efficient path towards the future of efficient energy use.

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