The 6 forms of energy which we will discuss are Thermal, Radiant, Electrical, Chemical, Mechanical, and Nuclear (TRECM-N). These various energy forms can be categorized as either potential or kinetic. The chart below categorizes the energy forms and gives examples:


Chemical Energy—energy stored in the chemical bonds of atoms or molecules.

Coal is considered to be chemical potential energy because it is primarily the element carbon. When it is burned, it provides kinetic energy.

Batteries convert stored (potential) chemical energy to electrical energy.

Food is stored chemical energy which is converted to thermal and mechanical energy in our cells.

Gasoline is converted to mechanical energy through internal combustion engine.

Thermal Energy—heat or the production of heat.  The greater the movement of particles in a substance, the greater the temperature.  In the picture below heat from within the earth converts underground water to steam which pushes up through openings in the earth’s crust.

Geothermal—heat from within the earth.

Stored Mechanical Energy—energy that is stored due to an objects tension

The stretched rubber band has elastic potential energy.

A compressed spring has potential mechanical energy.

Radiant Energy—energy that travels in waves from a source

Solar—After the nuclear reactions take place in the sun, electromagnetic energy radiates from the sun outward in all directions. We receive the electromagnetic radiation on earth in the form of ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, microwaves, and radio waves.

Light and heat energy radiate from light bulbs.

Nuclear Energy—energy stored in the nucleus of an atom.  The energy is released during either nuclear fission or nuclear fission.

Model of an atom.

Electrical Energy—energy caused by the movement of electrons.

Electricity flows through power lines.


Mechanical Energy—energy due to an object's motion.

Here the Space Shuttle is landing. It is not burning any fuel. It is pulled to the earth by gravity. Since it is in motion it has mechanical energy.

Sources of images used for this section as they appear,top to bottom, left then right: