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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 potential energy.

At this point, there are transfers back to kinetic energy and then back into the field, etc., with some energy always transferring to thermal energy.

Ultimately, all of the energy goes to thermal energy by the end of the ride.

---Nathan A. Unterman

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