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Physics LibreTexts

8: Potential Energy and Conservation of Energy

In George Rhoads’ rolling ball sculpture, the principle of conservation of energy governs the changes in the ball’s kinetic energy and relates them to changes and transfers for other types of energy associated with the ball’s interactions. In this chapter, we introduce the important concept of potential energy. This will enable us to formulate the law of conservation of mechanical energy and to apply it to simple systems, making solving problems easier. In the final section on sources of energy, we will consider energy transfers and the general law of conservation of energy. Throughout this textmap, the law of conservation of energy will be applied in increasingly more detail, as you encounter more complex and varied systems, and other forms of energy.

Thumbnail: Roller coaster "Blue Fire" at Europa Park. Image used with permission (CC SA 3.0; Coaster J).


  • Samuel J. Ling (Truman State University), Jeff Sanny (Loyola Marymount University), and Bill Moebs with many contributing authors. This work is licensed by OpenStax University Physics under a Creative Commons Attribution License (by 4.0).