Where Does the Energy Go When a Ball Drops?

Discover where energy goes when a ball drops. Explore potential energy, kinetic energy conversion, and conservation of energy.

Where Does the Energy Go When a Ball Drops?
Photo by Mulyadi / Unsplash

If you've ever wondered about the mysterious transformation of energy in something as simple as dropping a ball, then this article is for you.

The interplay between potential and kinetic energy is a fundamental concept in physics and has practical applications in everyday life.

Let's delve into the details of where all that energy goes when the ball drops.

Understanding Potential and Kinetic Energy

Potential energy is stored energy that an object possesses due to its position or state.

On the other hand, kinetic energy is the energy possessed by a moving object.

When the ball is lifted above the ground, it gains potential energy because of its position in the gravitational field.

When the ball is released, this potential energy is converted into kinetic energy as it accelerates towards the ground.

The Disappearance of Energy?

The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can only change forms.

So, what happens to the energy when the ball reaches the ground and comes to a stop?

The potential and kinetic energy of the ball do indeed decrease to zero once it has landed, but the energy is not lost.

Instead, it gets converted into other forms of energy:

Heat Energy

As the ball collides with the ground, energy is transformed into heat due to the friction between the ball and the surface.

This results in a slight increase in temperature, both in the ball and the floor.

Additionally, the ball's deformation upon impact also generates heat within the ball.

Sound Energy

Part of the energy is also converted into sound energy, producing the familiar thud when the ball hits the ground.

Elastic Potential Energy

If the ball is elastic, it deforms upon impact and stores a small amount of energy as elastic potential energy, which it can potentially release when bouncing back up.

Gravitational Potential Energy

If the ball compresses the surface it lands on, such as a foam mat, a small portion of the energy is stored as elastic potential energy in the compressed material, demonstrating that energy can change between forms.


The conversion of potential and kinetic energy is a reminder of the wondrous transformations that take place in the world around us.

The intricate ways in which energy takes on different forms, even in a seemingly simple act like dropping a ball, broadens our understanding of the fundamental principles that govern our universe.