How to Calculate Gravitational Potential Energy

By Contributing Writer; Updated April 24, 2017

In physics, learning gravitational potential energy has many uses. It can be used to find the amount of work used to lift an object, the work done during certain exercise regimens and it will come up several times in the process of learning mechanical physics. This step-by-step guide will help you learn this process simply and quickly, leaving the theory up to your instructor.

The Process

Write down the equation Ug = m x g x h. "X" implies multiplication, "Ug" is the gravitational potential energy, "m" is the mass in kilograms of the object, "g" is the force of gravity in meters per seconds squared acting upon the object and "h" is the height in meters which the object has been moved away from the gravitational force. On our planet, this is merely lifting an object straight up, away from the Earth.

Determine the mass of the object in kilograms, for the example, the object is 5 kg.

Determine the gravitational force acting on the object, for this example, the object is on Earth, so the force is 9.81 m/s/s.

Determine how far the object has been move away from the gravitational force. In the example, the object is picked up and raised 2 meters away from the Earth.

Solve the equation using the values you found. In our example, this is Ug = (5 kg) x (9.81 m/s/s) x (2 m). Solved, this equals 98.1, and the units are in Joules. So, in the example, the gravitational potential energy Ug is 98.1 J.