  Mechanical energy Work is done upon an object whenever a force acts upon it to cause it to be displaced. Work is a force acting upon an object to cause a displacement. In all instances in which work is done, there is an object which supplies the force in order to do the work. If a World Civilization book is lifted to the top shelf of a student locker, then the student supplies the force to do the work on the book. If a plow is displaced across a field, then some form of farm equipment (usually a tractor or a horse) supplies the force to do the work on the plow. If a pitcher winds up and accelerates a baseball towards home plate, then the pitcher supplies the force to do the work on the baseball. If a roller coaster car is displaced from ground level to the top of the first drop of the Shock Wave, then a chain (driven by a motor) supplies the force to do the work on the car. If a barbell is displaced from ground level to a height above a weightlifter's head, then the weightlifter is supplying a force to do work on the barbell. In all instances, an object which possesses some form of energy supplies the force to do the work. In the instances described here, the objects doing the work (a student, a tractor, a pitcher, a motor/chain) possess chemical potential energy stored in food or fuel which is transformed into work. In the process of doing work, the objects doing the work exchange energy in one form to do work on another object to give it energy. The energy acquired by the objects upon which work is done is known as mechanical energy. Mechanical energy is the energy which is possessed by an object due to its motion or its stored energy of position. Mechanical energy can be either kinetic energy (energy of motion) or potential energy (stored energy of position). Objects have mechanical energy if they are in motion and/or if they are at some position relative to a zero potential energy position (for example, a brick held at a vertical position above the ground or zero height position). A moving car possesses mechanical energy due to its motion (kinetic energy). A moving baseball possesses mechanical energy due to both its high speed (kinetic energy) and its vertical position above the ground (gravitational potential energy). A World Civilization book at rest on the top shelf of a locker possesses mechanical energy due to its vertical position above the ground (gravitational potential energy). A barbell lifted high above a weightlifter's head possesses mechanical energy due to its vertical position above the ground (gravitational potential energy). A drawn bow possesses mechanical energy due to its stretched position (elastic potential energy). An object which possesses mechanical energy is able to do work. In fact, mechanical energy is often defined as the ability to do work. Any object which possesses mechanical energy - whether it be in the form of potential energy or kinetic energy - is able to do work. That is, its mechanical energy enables that object to apply a force to another object in order to cause it to be displaced. Numerous examples can be given of how an object with mechanical energy can harness that energy in order to apply a force to cause another object to be displaced. A classic example involves the massive wrecking ball of a demolition machine. The wrecking ball is a massive object which is swung backwards to a high position and allowed to swing forward into building structure or other object in order to demolish it. Upon hitting the structure, the wrecking ball applies a force to it in order to cause the wall of the structure to be displaced. back           Copyright © 2005 ESD Bulgaria. All rights reserved.