What is thermal energy?


Quick Answer

Thermal energy is the energy that a system or object possesses due to the random movement of its particles. When more particles are present, there is more movement, which results in more thermal energy.

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Full Answer

The smallest particles of any object, atoms and molecules, are constantly in motion. This random motion results in thermal energy, also known as internal kinetic energy. The higher the number of particles in an object, the greater the amount of movement of the particles, which generates a greater amount of thermal energy and a higher temperature, resulting in a greater level of heat transfer, according to the University of California, Davis.

It is important to note that while thermal energy is dependent on the temperature of an object, it is not the same as heat. Thermal energy is the sum of all the kinetic energies in the object, while heat on the other hand results from a flow of thermal energy from an object of a higher temperature to one of a lower temperature.

There are several practical, everyday applications of thermal energy. For example, people use thermal energy to heat their homes and cook food. In addition, vehicle engines convert thermal energy into mechanical energy.

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