In this article, we will provide you with all information you will need to make your calculations, including the rotational kinetic energy formula.
We will also show you how to calculate rotational kinetic energy, illustrating the guidelines with a step-by-step example.
What is the rotational kinetic energy?
Rotational energy is a form of kinetic energy. It describes the energy of an object in motion. While regular kinetic energy is related to objects moving along a straight line, rotational energy is linked with rotating objects. That is why, instead of a linear speed, we have to use angular velocity in our calculations.
Remember that if an object is both in translation (moving along a straight line) and rotation (turning around its axis), it has both regular and rotational kinetic energy. Therefore, to find out its total energy, you must calculate and add both values.
Rotational kinetic energy formula
Just as potential energy can be calculated using the potential energy formula, the rotational kinetic energy can be expressed with a straightforward equation. In this case:
- – Rotational kinetic energy, expressed in joules;
- – Moment of inertia of the object, expressed in kg·m²; and
- – Angular velocity of the body, expressed in radians per second, hertz (rotations per second), or RPM (revolutions per minute) after the appropriate unit conversion. If you're not sure how to calculate this value for a body in rotary motion, head straight to our centrifugal force calculator to find out.
How to calculate the rotational kinetic energy?
Let's analyze the following example together: a wheel of radius and mass is rolling along a track, making 30 revolutions per minute. What is its rotational energy?
- First, we need to determine the wheel's angular velocity. We know that it is equal to 30 RPM, which is equivalent to about 3.1416 rad/s.
- Then, we need to calculate the wheel's moment of inertia. We already know its radius. As the wheel has the shape of a circle, we can express its moment of inertia with the equation:
- Once we know both the angular velocity and the moment of inertia, all we have to do is plug them into the rotational kinetic energy formula:
- We have found that the rotational kinetic energy of the rolling wheel equals about 1.2337 J.
And if you'd like to learn about three-dimensional rotations, make sure to check Omni's quaternion calculator.