Key Points: Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. Potential energy is stored energy.
In science, energy is often defined as one of two things: The ability to move something or cause a change in matter. An object has energy because of its motion or position. These two types of energy are potential energy and kinetic energy.
Kinetic energy is the energy of motion, or movement. A ball, when thrown, has kinetic energy. A roller coaster, when speeding downhill, gains even more kinetic energy as its speed increases. The kinetic energy of moving water in a river can even move a boat.
Potential energy is just the opposite. Potential energy is stored energy that is waiting to be used. A person sitting at the top of a slide has potential energy. The higher that the person had climbed to get to the top of the slide, the more energy that was stored. If the person on top of the slide begins to slide down, the potential energy that is stored would begin to convert into kinetic energy as their motion increased.
Food and gasoline also have potential energy that is released when they are used.
Even though all energy can be defined as either energy of motion or stored energy, there many different forms energy can take. Some of the different forms of energy include heat, electrical, sound, light, and chemical.
An interesting law in science states that energy cannot be created or destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.