What Happens When the Thermal Energy of a Substance Increases?

As an example of thermal energy, we have seen that you can experience thermal energy practically in seconds. All you have to do is rub your hands together, and you will notice the hands getting warmed. That is because of thermal energy produced. Given that, it may come into your mind what happens when the thermal energy of a substance increases? Will your hands get burned due to heat? Or what will happen with any other objects?

Having questions in your mind is not a matter of concern but getting the right answer is. Temperature, heat, and thermal energy are some of the things that you deal with every day. Knowing all these elements will help you understand what happens if the thermal energy of a substance increases or when it decreases.

For this reason, let’s first revive what is temperature, heat, and what it all has to do with motion.

What is temperature and heat?

In technical terms, the word temperature depicts the average value of kinetic energy of the moving particles in an object. Also, find out here if thermal energy is kinetic or potential?

Let us now simplify it and see what it is. The coldness and hotness of any object are defined by the temperature. The greater the temperature, the hot the matter will be. The lower the temperature, the cold the object will be.

As simple as that, the temperature is directly linked with the motion of the particles of a matter. All objects are made up of atoms, molecules, and particles, and they are in motion at different speeds and in discrete directions. Due to this movement of particles, they have kinetic energy.

When you escalate the temperature of an object by any means, the average speed of particles will also increase. The particles move faster in hot objects and slower in cold objects.

Thermal energy

As we know that energy is not created, neither can it be destroyed; it can only transform from one form to another. The same goes for thermal energy. Thermal energy is referred to as the energy of movement; it means that it is the form of energy created by the movement of particles within an object or in a contained system.

Relation between thermal energy and temperature

How is thermal energy and temperature linked together? Take the example of an ice cube. You only need one cube from the refrigerator and put it at room temperature. Soon it will start to melt as room temperature is higher than the temperature of an ice cube. The melting of an ice cube is caused due to thermal energy produced.

What causes the thermal energy to increase?

If we learn what makes the thermal energy to elevate, we can deduct the outcome of the increase in the thermal energy of a substance.

The thermal energy does not rise up itself, but it is the potential and kinetic energy of an object that makes it rise. Thermal energy is the sum of these two energies, so if any of the energy, either kinetic or potential, of an object increases, it will make the thermal energy rise as well.

Moreover, you should also know that the kinetic energy of any material increases when the temperature is raised. So, if you raise the temperature of an entity, it will increase the kinetic energy as the speed of the movement of particles increases. This escalation in kinetic energy will cause the thermal energy to upsurge as well.

What happens if the thermal energy of a substance increases?

By reading the above information which states that thermal energy is increased as a result of potential or kinetic energy, we can say that the motion of the particles of the constituent body and as well as the temperature will elevate if the thermal energy of a substance increases.

In other words, we can also say that it is the internal energy of a body that sees a rise when thermal energy is increased.

It happens because when you increase the thermal energy, the particles of an object will start moving faster, and this movement will result in increasing the heat. Increasing the heat means the temperature will also see a raise.

Furthermore, this is also understood when you see that thermal energy can be increased by either increasing the kinetic energy or by raising the temperature by any means.


We find out that it is the increase in motion of the particles and the temperature that see a rise when the thermal energy of a substance increases. Can you now guess what happens if the thermal energy of an element decreases? We are sure you can find it out. Let us know what you got.