Energy Transfers in Roller Coasters
How is energy transferred in a roller coaster?
There are many energy transfers in roller coasters. In more
classical systems, an electric lift motor transfers electric
potential energy to kinetic energy to thermal energy and
gravitational potential energy. Please note that these are not
different energies, but different locations for storing the same energy.
In more recent roller coasters, the electric energy is transferred to
magnetic energy to kinetic energy to thermal energy to gravitational
At this point, there are transfers back to kinetic energy and then
back into the field, etc., with some energy always transferring to
Ultimately, all of the energy goes to thermal energy by the end of the ride.
---Nathan A. Unterman
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Update: June 2012