Potential energy is energy that is stored in a system. There is the possibility, or potential, for it to be converted to kinetic energy. Elastic potential energy is stored in a spring that has been stretched or compressed by a distance x away from its equilibrium position. Position x = 0 must always be the position where the spring is most relaxed. Springs have their own natural “spring constants” that define how stiff they are. The letter k is used for the spring constant, and it has the units N/m. Like all work and energy, the unit of potential energy is the Joule (J), where 1 J = 1 N∙m = 1 kg m2/s2 .
potential energy = 1/2(spring constant)(distance from equilibrium)2
U = 1/2kx2
U = potential energy of a spring at a certain position
k = the spring constant, specific to the spring, with units N/m.
x = distance the spring is stretched or compressed away from equilibrium
Potential Energy: Elastic Formula Questions:
1) A spring, which has a spring constant k = 7.50 N/m, has been stretched 0.40 m from its equilibrium position. What is the potential energy now stored in the spring?
Answer: The spring has been stretched x = 0.40 m from equilibrium. The potential energy can be found using the formula:
U = 1/2kx2
U = 1/2(7.50 N/m)(0.40 m)2
U = 0.60 N∙m
U = 0.60 J
The elastic potential energy stored by the spring when it is has been stretched 0.40 m is 0.60 J.
2) A spring with a spring constant k = 800 N/m has been compressed, and 196 J of potential energy is stored. What has distance from equilibrium the spring being compressed?
Answer: The spring constant of the spring is k = 800 N/m, and the potential energy is U = 196 J. To find the distance, rearrange the equation:
The equation to find the distance the spring has been compressed is therefore:
x = 0.70 m
The spring has been compressed 0.70 m, which resulted in an elastic potential energy of U = 196 J being stored.