Definition: Mechanical energy
- In the physical sciences, mechanical energy is the sum of potential energy and kinetic energy. It is the energy associated with the motion and position of an object. The principle of conservation of mechanical energy states that in an isolated system that is only subject to conservative forces the mechanical energy is constant. If an object is moved in the opposite direction of a conservative net force, the potential energy will increase and if the speed (not the velocity) of the object is changed, the kinetic energy of the object is changed as well. In all real systems, however, non-conservative forces, like frictional forces, will be present, but often they are of negligible values and the mechanical energy's being constant can therefore be a useful approximation. In elastic collisions, the mechanical energy is conserved but in inelastic collisions, some mechanical energy is converted into heat. The equivalence between lost mechanical energy (dissipation) and an increase in temperature was discovered by James Prescott Joule.Many modern devices, such as the electric motor or the steam engine, are used today to convert mechanical energy into other forms of energy, e.g. electrical energy, or to convert other forms of energy, like heat, into mechanical energy.