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Thermal Energy Definition

Thermal energy is energy from atoms moving in a substance. For example, ice melting involves thermal energy transfer, raising its temperature.

View Lesson on Intro to Thermal Energy
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Intro to Thermal Energy

Fun Facts

  • Chemical reactions, like fire, can release or absorb thermal energy.
  • Thermal energy always move from a hotter area to a colder area.
  • Insulators like cardboard and foam can reduce the amount of thermal energy that is transferred into or out of a substance.

Why Do We Need To Know About Thermal Energy

Learning about thermal energy helps us understand how we cook food and keep warm. It’s all about moving heat around. This is important for staying comfortable and alive. For example, when we bake cookies or use hand warmers, it’s thermal energy that makes things hot or changes their state.

This knowledge can also help you find jobs in areas like food science, working with the army, or designing new products. Knowing about thermal energy means you can come up with better ways to keep things warm or cold, like in a thermos, or make fake snow, showing it’s useful for a lot of different things.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do hot objects have high temperatures?
Temperature measures the average kinetic energy of the atoms or molecules that make up an object. As thermal energy is added to an object, the object’s molecules move faster. When the molecules move faster, they have more kinetic energy. So the temperature increases.
What happens to the molecules that make up a chocolate chip as it is heated in the oven?
As thermal energy is transferred to the chocolate, its molecules vibrate faster and faster. Eventually they vibrate fast enough that they start to slide past each other and move around. As this happens, the chocolate changes from a solid to a liquid.
Why do water droplets form on the outside of a glass of cold soda?
Thermal energy moves from water vapor in the air around the glass into the cold drink. As the water molecules in the air lose energy, they slow down and move closer together. As this happens, the water vapor condenses into a liquid on the outside of the glass.
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