The Potential energy is the capacity of a body to perform work according to the configuration it holds in the system of bodies that exert forces on each other, that is, the potential energy is the energy that is capable of generating work as a consequence of the position of a body. It can be considered as the energy stored in the system or the measure of work that the system can deliver.
Then, it is assumed that when a body is mobilized in relation to a certain reference level it will be in a position to accumulate energy.
When a body is raised to a certain height it acquires what is known as gravitational potential energy; once the body falls, that potential energy will immediately be transformed into kinetic energy. For example, the cars of a roller coaster achieve gravitational potential energy in the highest part of their travel, once they begin to descend to the previous energy it is converted into kinetic, as we said.
Potential energy is somehow recognized as a scalar magnitude that is associated with a field of forces. The difference between the field values of a point A with respect to a point B will be equal to the work done by the force to travel between A and B.
This type of energy may be presented as: gravitational potential energy, that we just explained it, chemical energy and elastic potential energy.
The chemical potential energy is the energy that is transformed into kinetic energy from a internal combustion process. Cars that are powered by gasoline will take advantage of the potential chemical energy that it has, which, when it enters into combustion, will generate enough energy to make the vehicle go.
For its part, the elastic potential energy occurs when increases the internal energy accumulated in a deformable solid, as a consequence of the work carried out by the forces that cause the aforementioned deformation.
The food that humans eat has potential energy in the form of chemical energy, which will be released once the body releases it.