20+ Differences Between Temperature And Thermal Energy

Temperature and Thermal Energy are two confusing terms of thermodynamic nature that are used interchangeably and may sound like synonyms.

But there are major differences between Temperature and Thermal Energy. Temperature can be defined as the hotness or coldness of an object. Thermal Energy can be defined as how much an object is heated up. 

The major difference between Temperature and Thermal Energy is that Temperature can be negative, meaning an object can be cold, whereas Thermal Energy is always positive, meaning an object is only heated up.

Thermal Energy is produced when there is an increase in the temperature of an object. 

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Key differences – 

Temperature –

  1. Temperature is the hotness or coldness of an object. 
  2. Temperature is measured by a Thermometer. 
  3. Temperature can be measured in the form of Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. 
  4. Kelvin is the SI unit for measuring Temperature. 
  5. Temperature is the average Kinetic Energy of the molecules present in an object. 

Thermal Energy –

  1. Thermal Energy is only the hotness of an object. 
  2. Thermal Energy is calculated. 
  3. Thermal Energy can be measured in the form of Joules and Calories. 
  4. Joules is the SI unit for measuring Thermal Energy. 
  5. Thermal Energy is the total Kinetic Energy of the molecules present in an object. 

Comparison Between Temperature And Thermal Energy

ParameterTemperatureThermal Energy
Layman MeaningTemperature refers to the hotness or coldness of a given object. Thermal Energy refers to the hotness of a given object. 
DefinitionTemperature is the average kinetic energy of an object.Thermal Energy is the total Kinetic Energy of an object.
MeasurementTemperature can be directly measured with the help of a thermometer. It is not possible for Thermal Energy to be directly measured. 
Units of MeasurementTemperature is measured in Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.Thermal Energy is measured in Joules and Calories. 
SI unitThe SI unit of measuring Temperature is Kelvin.The SI unit of measuring Thermal Energy is Joules.
Positive and NegativeTemperature can be positive as well as negative.Thermal Energy is always Positive. It can never be negative.

Differences Between Temperature And Thermal Energy

In order to understand the differences between Temperature and Thermal Energy, it is important to understand what kinetic energy is first. 

What exactly is Kinetic Energy?

Kinetic Energy is simply the energy produced due to the motion of an object. 

What exactly is Temperature?

Temperature simply means how hot or how cold an object is. How does an object get heated up or cool down? The answer is by the molecules present in an object.

Every object has molecules present in it, and they have their own temperature and their own motion. When these molecules are moving at high speed and are apart from other molecules, the temperature is higher. 

On the other hand, if the molecules are moving at a low speed and are close to other molecules, the temperature is lower. When these heated and colder molecules collide, there is an exchange of energy, the heated ones get colder, and the cold ones get heated.

This keeps happening until all the molecules are of the same temperature. That is how the temperature of any object is determined. 

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Features –

  1. Temperature indicates how hot or how cold an object is. 
  2. Temperature is the average kinetic energy of an object. 

What exactly is Thermal Energy?

Thermal energy defines how hot an object is. Thermal Energy is the total kinetic energy of an object because it takes in the amount of the kinetic energy of all the molecules of an object.

 It is determined by the temperature of an object. And the temperature of an object is determined by the temperature of molecules present in an object. When the molecules collide and form a low temperature, there is no Thermal Energy.

But when the molecules collide and form a high temperature, that is when their thermal energy is produced. Higher the temperature, the higher the Thermal Energy.

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Features

  1. Thermal Energy only indicates how hot an object is. 
  2. The total kinetic energy present in an object is Thermal Energy. 

Contrast Between Temperature And Thermal Energy

Origin Of The Word

  • Temperature – The word Temperature originated from the Latin word “temperate,” meaning “restrain.” 
  • Thermal Energy – The word Thermal originated from the Greek word “thermē,” meaning “heat,” and the word Energy originated from the French word “énergie” and from the Greek word “energeia.”

Definition

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Temperature – Temperature refers to the hotness or coldness of an object. 

Thermal Energy – Thermal Energy refers to how much an object is heated. 

Positive/ Negative

  • Temperature – Temperature can be both, i.e., Positive as well as Negative. 
  • Thermal Energy – Thermal Energy is always positive. 

Measured

  • Temperature – Temperature is measured by a Thermometer. 
  • Thermal Energy – Thermal Energy can not be directly measured. It is always calculated. 

Units Of Measurement

  • Temperature – Temperature is measured in Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. 
  • Thermal Energy – Thermal Energy is measured in Joules and Calories. 

SI Unit

  • Temperature – The SI unit of measuring Temperature is Kelvin. 
  • Thermal Energy – The SI unit for measuring Thermal Energy is Joules. 

Kinetic Energy

  • Temperature – Temperature is the average kinetic energy of an object. 
  • Thermal Energy – Thermal Energy is the total kinetic energy of an object. 

Quantity

  • Temperature – The number of molecules plays no role in determining Temperature. 
  • Thermal Energy – The number of molecules plays a major role in determining Thermal Energy.

Conclusion

Temperature and Thermal Energy are two terms widely used in Physics. These two terms sound alike but have differences and should not be used interchangeably. In layman’s meaning, temperature refers to the hotness or coldness of an object.

It is the average kinetic energy of an object. It can be negative as well. Temperature is not affected by the number of molecules present in an object.

On the other hand, Thermal Energy refers to the hotness of an object in layman’s terms. It is the total kinetic energy of an object. It is always positive. Thermal Energy is greatly affected by the number of molecules present in an object. 


(FAQs) Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is meant by Kinetic Energy?

Kinetic Energy simply refers to the amount of energy created through a motion of an object. 

Q2. What are the major differences between Temperature and Thermal Energy?

The major differences between Temperature and Thermal Energy are

1. Temperature refers to the hotness or coldness of an object, whereas Thermal Energy refers to only the hotness of an object. 
2. Temperature is the average kinetic energy of an object, whereas Thermal Energy is the total kinetic energy of an object. 
3. Temperature can be directly measured, but Thermal Energy is only calculated. 

Q3. What is the SI unit of Temperature?

The SI unit of measuring Temperature is Kelvin, but it is also measured in Celsius and Fahrenheit.

Q4. What is the SI unit of Thermal Energy?

The SI unit of measuring Thermal Energy is Joules but is also measured in Calories. 


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