# Can electrical energy be changed into potential energy?

If I boil some water on an electric stove, will the heat energy imparted change into potential energy (state changes: water to steam).

• When you boil water, the electrical energy converts to thermal energy, which is used to change the phase of water. You could use the expansion of steam from this thermal energy to raise a weight, thus also storing potential energy. – Drew Jan 29 at 16:57

If I boil some water on an electric stove, will the heat energy imparted change into potential energy (state changes: water to steam).

YES. It does as a result of a sequence of changes to the kinetic and/or potential energy of the heating element, pot, and the water. The following is an admittedly simplified explanation, but it should make the point.

You turn on the stove. The following conversions occur:

1. Electrical energy elevates the internal energy of the heating element raising its temperature (primarily kinetic energy) and the temperature of the metal sheathing in contact with the bottom of the pot.

2. The bottom of the metal pot is initially at room temperature (same temperature as the water in it). Since there is a temperature difference between the sheath and the bottom of the pot, heat transfers from the sheathed heating element to the bottom of the pot.

3. The heat transfer to the bottom of the pot raises its internal energy (increases its internal kinetic energy) and thus its temperature. It now transfers heat to the water.

4. The internal energy of the water initially consists of a combination of kinetic energy (the random translational motion of the water molecules) as reflected by its initial temperature and internal potential energy due to the intermolecular forces between them.

5. As the water temperature increases, the motion of the molecules (kinetic energy) increases. Initially there is little change in the distance between water molecules. But eventually the water reaches its boiling point and starts to convert to steam (causes a phase change)

6. The conversion of water to steam is a phase change at constant temperature and increases the separation between water molecules. So now the heat being delivered causes an increase in the potential energy of the water molecules.

So the answer to your question is yes. By way of the sequence of energy conversions the original electrical energy has been, in part, converted into the potential energy of the water.

Hope this helps

• I did not expect such an elaborated answer. Thank you, Bob. – user9836598 Jan 29 at 17:36
• @user9836598 Hope it wasn't too elaborate, but happy it was acceptable to you. – Bob D Jan 29 at 17:40