Mechanical Energy

Have you ever wondered how a jet aircraft lifts its tremendous weight off the
ground, or what gives a runner the stamina to reach the finish line in a race?

In order to answer all these questions we must talk about the transformation of
one sort of energy into another. The jet aircraft gets its power from jet
turbines. These powerful jet engines create a high-pressure stream of very hot
gases that push the aircraft forward as they leave the engine. This is an
example of heat being transformed into movement. This is sometimes described as

Mechanical Energy. However, this transformation could not take place without the
fuel that the aircraft gets within its wings or fuselage. Fuel is considered a
chemical energy. This diagram shows how the jet engine acts as energy to lift
the aircraft off the surface of earth. Fuel can take the form of gases, solids
or liquids. When fuels combine with oxygen from the air, they release their
stored energy as heat. We recognize this process as burning. The individual
relies on food for fuel which contains energy-giving substances that our bodies
can store until we need this energy to use our muscles. When we do use our
muscles within us, we may not always be sure that heat is given off. Our bodies
do not burst into flames but the perspiration on our skin is a clue to what is
happening. The movement of the windsurfer has a different explanation. The
windsurfer is propelled along by a sail which collects mechanical energy from
the winds that sweep along the water. This energy has been produced by the sun
which warms the earth's surface and sets the air above in motion. The sun's heat
comes to the earth as a form of radiant energy. When the heat reaches the
surface of the earth, it causes the land or seas to rise in temperature. The sun
is very hot. Infact, the center of the sun can reach temperatures of up to 27
million degrees Fahrenheit. This is because of another kind of energy reaction
where new substances are continually being created as others are being
destroyed. This reaction is known to us as the Nuclear Reaction. Today we are
trying to imitate this reaction in improving our energy supply. Scientists have
calculated that the sun has enough fuel to go on producing energy at its present
rate for about five billion years. On earth man-made nuclear reactions are used
to produce a form of power we know as electricity. Electricity can be
transformed into other kinds of energy such as heat, light and radio waves.

Humans have also used the idea of nuclear reactions as a type of weapon. We call
this powerful weapon the Atomic Bomb. Electrical energy can also be used to
produce laser beams. This involves energy being concentrated to a specific
narrow point where the impact of so much power creates heat able to cut through


Discovering Energy, Frazer, Frank Trewin Copplestone Books Ltd, 1981.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 6 Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979.