Calculating Potential Energy

In General

Calculating the potential energy stored by any conservative force is a simple two-step process:

  1. Pick a situation or arrangement for which you would like to say that the potential energy equals zero (U = 0).
  2. The potential energy of any other position or arrangement equals the negative of the work that the conservative force does when the situation is changed from the potential energy = 0 situation to that one.

That's it - just two steps. Some examples might clarify the process:

last update February 25, 2003 by JL Stanbrough