Energy Basics: Conversions

Here is a handy chart of the various forms of energy and the processes by which they can be converted from one form to the other.

Source: recreated from Vaclav Smil’s Energy (2006)

It should be read as, for instance, “chemical energy is transformed to thermal energy by heat exchange, whereas thermal energy is transformed to chemical energy by boiling dissociation.”

Humans have been able to commercialise many of these forms of energy for our use. For instance, solar (electromagnetic) energy is used to boil water (thermal energy) and fossil fuels (chemical energy) are first burnt (thermal energy) and then used to run the wheels of automobiles (kinetic energy) through internal combustion engines.