Is Thermal Energy Potential or Kinetic?

Energy is all around us, and understanding it requires you to put full concentration. It is an interesting concept, and we all over and over again get confused between different terms. Most importantly, when it comes to thermal energy that is linked to us in one way or another. Given the different types, you must have come across a thought of thermal energy potential or kinetic energy.

When dealing with energy in any sort of way, potential and kinetic energy are the two most important forms, and it is important that you can differentiate between the two and identify if thermal energy lies within the potential or kinetic energy.

Read on this article as here we will clear the mix-up once and for all. Discussing the potential and kinetic energy in detail, we will see where the thermal energy belongs. While we discuss potential and kinetic energy here, do not forget to give a read about thermal energy if you are not sure what it is. You can also see examples of thermal energy in order to avoid the doubts about the concept.

Considering that you know what thermal energy is, let’s now see whether it is potential or kinetic.

Potential energy

It is beyond any doubt that you need the energy to do any kind of work. In this context, potential energy is the energy stored within a system or an object. It can be because of the arrangements of elements or their position.

The potential energy is then further divided into different types such as gravitational potential energy, electric potential energy, etc., where each one is associated with the kind of force. Potential energy is stored in an object for as long as it starts to move.

Kinetic energy

This form of energy is referred to the energy of a body in motion. When an object initiates to move, the potential energy takes a new form and that is kinetic energy. Kinetic energy has the ability to transfer as opposed to potential energy.

Moreover, kinetic energy has three categories based on the type of movement the object is subjected to. The three forms are known as vibrational, rotational, and translational.

Vibrational kinetic energy is when the object vibrates, and rotational kinetic energy is when the object rotates. At the same time, translational kinetic energy is referred to when the object deviates from its original position.

Relationship between kinetic and potential energy

As we all know that energy cannot be made nor destroyed; however, it can be transformed to one another or to a new kind as stated by the law of conservation of energy.

Given that the potential energy relates to the position and the object, kinetic energy is concerned with motion. The relationship between them is that both can be changed into another form, i.e., potential energy translates to kinetic energy and vice versa. This cycle continues and is never-ending.

Thermal energy is potential or kinetic?

Now, as you understand these types, it will be easy to identify if thermal is kinetic or potential.

To recap, thermal energy is the form of energy possessed by an object when atoms and particles vibrate and produce heat. Remember that heat energy and thermal energy are not the same. Heat is transferable, whereas thermal energy is contained within a system.

Given the definitions and a brief overview of kinetic, thermal, and potential energy, it is stated that thermal energy is one form of kinetic energy that has the ability to convert into potential energy.

In order to grasp it fully, let’s take the example of water. When water is placed in a bowl, it has potential energy and is not moving at all. But when you start boiling, the water molecules commence moving, thus creating kinetic energy. Both of these forms of energy are interchangeable.


Whether experimenting with a project at home or thinking about creating a renewable energy source, from your kitchen to the nuclear plants, thermal energy, and its kind are everywhere. You will see a number of different uses every day, making you wonder if thermal energy is potential or kinetic.

While you have got the answer in this article, consider sharing it with others so that we all know where it relates. Understanding different concepts of energy are going to make you wiser, and you will be able to put your knowledge into practice making your life better. Can you recall another example other than boiling water discussed here? Let us know!