What Is the Meaning of Kinetic Energy?

By Brenda Priddy
A moving car produces kinetic energy.
old car image by Tatiana Edrenkina from Fotolia.com

Kinetic energy is the production of energy by an object in motion. There are three subcategories of kinetic energy, including vibrational, which is caused by objects vibrating; rotational, which is caused by moving objects; and translational, which is caused by objects hitting one another. These three categories of energy make up almost all of the energy in motion throughout the entire world.


Kinetic energy is one of the two main types of energy, with the other type being potential. Kinetic energy is defined as the energy generated by motion. This energy can be made by many different types of movement, and not all kinetic energy is conducted by physical objects. The formula for kinetic energy is ½ times MV squared. Kinetic energy is a part of any object that moves, and it is one of the largest sources of energy in the world.


Thermal kinetic energy is made from molecules heating up and colliding. Radiant kinetic energy is formed through electromagnetic energy traveling in waves, such as with sunlight. Motion energy is formed through the production of energy made through the motion of objects, such as vehicles and fans. Sound kinetic energy produces moving energy by using longitudinal waves. Sound is caused by the vibrations on or from an object, which is how it is considered a kinetic energy form.


Kinetic energy is used for nearly everything. Radio, gamma and UV rays all use kinetic energy to move from one place to another. Thermal kinetic energy is used by heaters, fire, sunlight and any other heat sources. Motion kinetic energy is used to operate vehicles, walk from one place to another, wind power, water waves and any other moving object. Sound kinetic energy is how sound waves travel through the air.


Kinetic energy provides objects with the ability to move and interact in the physical world. The energy stored by the power of movement is also used in different applications around the world, such as in the collection of energy from wind power collectors. Solar power is another example of the benefits of kinetic energy. Without kinetic energy, vehicles would not be able to gain speed and move quickly from one place to another.


Anything that creates vibrational, rotational or translational energy is kinetic energy. Most forms of energy in the world are considered kinetic energy, because the energy is created by one or more objects acting against an environment or another object. Production of this energy type is simple. All it takes is for an object to start moving. This can be as simple as tapping a plate to create sound waves, or as complicated as using a solar power generator designed to collect the radiant heat from the sun.