7.5: Potential Energy
The energy stored by a structure and location of matter in space is called potential energy. For instance, raising a kettlebell changes its spatial location and increases its potential energy. Similarly, a stretched rubber band contains potential energy which, under certain conditions, can be converted into other forms of energy, such as kinetic energy.
Chemical bonds that form attractive forces between atoms also contain potential energy, called chemical energy. When a chemical reaction occurs, this energy is converted into other forms of energy.
For example, plants and other photosynthetic organisms convert solar energy into chemical energy in food, which is stored in macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. When other organisms consume the food, the macronutrients are metabolized, releasing energy-rich molecules of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
The potential energy in the bonds of ATP molecules is used to power many biochemical reactions within the cell to maintain bodily functions. For example, the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) uses chemical energy derived from the macronutrients in their food to fly as high as 15,000 feet.