In physics, energy is a property of objects, transferable among them via fundamental interactions, which can be convertedin form but not created or destroyed. The joule is the SI unit of energy, based on the amount transferred to an object by themechanical work of moving it 1 metre against a force of 1 newton.
Work and heat are two categories of processes or mechanisms that can transfer a given amount of energy. The second law of thermodynamics limits the amount of work that can be performed by energy that is obtained via a heating process—some energy is always lost as waste heat. The maximum amount that can go into work is called the available energy. Systems such as machines and living things often require available energy, not just any energy. Mechanical and other forms of energy can be transformed in the other direction into thermal energy without such limitations.
There are many forms of energy, but all these types must meet certain conditions such as being convertible to other kinds of energy, obeying conservation of energy, and causing a proportional change in mass in objects that possess it. Common energy forms include the kinetic energy of a moving object, the radiant energy carried by light and other electromagnetic radiation, the potential energy stored by virtue of the position of an object in a force field such as a gravitational, electric ormagnetic field, and the thermal energy comprising the microscopic kinetic and potential energies of the disordered motions of the particles making up matter. Some specific forms of potential energy include elastic energy due to the stretching or deformation of solid objects and chemical energy such as is released when a fuel burns. Any object that has mass when stationary, such as a piece of ordinary matter, is said to have rest mass, or an equivalent amount of energy whose form is called rest energy, though this isn't immediately apparent in everyday phenomena described by classical physics.
According to mass–energy equivalence, all forms of energy (not just rest energy) exhibit mass. For example, adding 25 kilowatt-hours (90 megajoules) of energy to an object in the form of heat (or any other form) increases its mass by 1 microgram; if you had a sensitive enough mass balance or scale, this mass increase could be measured. Our Sun transforms nuclear potential energy to other forms of energy; its total mass does not decrease due to that in itself (since it still contains the same total energy even if in different forms), but its mass does decrease when the energy escapes out to its surroundings, largely as radiant energy.
Although any energy in any single form can be transformed into another form, the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of a system can only change if energy is transferred into or out of the system. This means that it is impossible to create or destroy energy. The total energy of a system can be calculated by adding up all forms of energy in the system. Examples of energy transfer and transformation include generating or making use of electric energy, performingchemical reactions, or lifting an object. Lifting against gravity performs work on the object and stores gravitational potential energy; if it falls, gravity does work on the object which transforms the potential energy to the kinetic energy associated with its speed.
More broadly, living organisms require available energy to stay alive; humans get such energy from food along with the oxygen needed to metabolize it. Civilisation requires a supply of energy to function; energy resources such as fossil fuelsare a vital topic in economics and politics. Earth's climate and ecosystem are driven by the radiant energy Earth receives from the sun (as well as the geothermal energy contained within the earth), and are sensitive to changes in the amount received. The word "energy" is also used outside of physics in many ways, which can lead to ambiguity and inconsistency. The vernacular terminology is not consistent with technical terminology. For example, while energy is always conserved (in the sense that the total energy does not change despite energy transformations), energy can be converted into a form, e.g., thermal energy, that cannot be utilized to perform work. When one talks about "conserving energy by driving less", one talks about conserving fossil fuels and preventing useful energy from being lost as heat. This usage of "conserve" differs from that of the law of conservation of energy