Potential Energy


W J M Rankine coined the term potential energy 150 years ago.

gravitational potential energy

ΔUg = mgΔh

the more general form will be dealt with later

Ug = − Gm1m2

work-energy theorem, two possibilities

force and potential energy

one-dimensional   three-dimensional   compact notation
F(r) = −  dU     F(r) = −  U   −  U   −  U   F(r) = − ∇U
dr x y z

constant total energy, horizontal line above curve, kinetic energy is difference between line and curve

bounded and unbounded states, binding energy

stability of equilibrium

stable equilibrium unstable equilibrium neutral equilibrium
[diagram] [diagram] [diagram]
local maximum local minimum constant potential energy