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Q & A: Heat Energy - Kinetic? Or Potential?

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
Hi, my name is Natalie. Iím in 8th grade and iím doing a science project on heat energy. I was confused about the potential and kinetic classifications of heat energy. If you could help that would be great.
- natalie
brier, wa, usa
A:
Natalie -

Heat energy is actually made up partly of kinetic energy and partly of potential energy. In a solid, for example,  it's the kinetic energy and potential energies of the atoms as they wiggle around. When something is really hot, itís because all of the atoms inside of it (the tiny bits of stuff that make it up) are wiggling around a lot. And the colder it is, the less the atoms wiggle. When the atoms wiggle, they have kinetic energy because they are moving. They also have potential energy because the spacing between the atoms is changing as they wiggle; as you stretch or squeeze the distance, you store potential energy just like when you stretch or squeeze a spring.

-Tamara

(published on 10/22/2007)

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