Difference Between Energy and Matter

Energy vs Matter

Energy and matter are two very important quantities when physics is concerned. These concepts hold a very important place in fields of physics, theory of relativity, astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics and stellar evolution. It is extremely crucial to have a solid understanding on these concepts in order to excel in any of those fields. In this article, we are going to discuss what matter is and what energy is, their definitions, their similarities, examples for each, their similarities and finally their differences.


Energy is a non-intuitive concept. The term “energy” is derived from the Greek word “energeia”, which means operation or activity. In this sense, energy is the mechanism behind an activity. Energy is not a directly observable quantity. However, it can be calculated by measuring external properties. Energy can be found in many forms. Kinetic energy, thermal energy and potential energy are to name a few. Energy was thought to be a conserved property in the universe up until the special theory of relativity was developed. The theory of relativity along with quantum mechanics showed that energy and mass are the interchangeable. This gives rise to the energy – mass conservation of the universe. However, when nuclear fusion or nuclear fission is not present, it can be considered as the energy of a system is conserved. The kinetic energy is the energy that causes the movements of object; the potential energy arises due to the place where the object is placed; and the thermal energy arises due to temperature. It is believed that there are other types of energy in this universe, which are not discovered yet. This energy is categorized as dark energy and is believed to be a large proportion of the total energy of the universe.


In earlier days, matter was “material”. In this context, matter was everything that is tangible. However, with the Einstein postulating the theory of relativity in 1905 almost everything classical broke down. He went on to show that waves sometimes behaved as particles and particles behaved as waves. This was known as the wave particle duality. This led to unison between mass and energy. Both of these quantities are two forms of matter. The famous equation E = mc2 gives us the amount of energy that can be obtained from m amount of mass. In the universe, the amount of matter is conserved. Matter changes forms as mass and energy. The reactions in the sun leads to a nuclear fusion where mass is transformed into energy. High energy photon collisions produce matter-antimatter pairs where energy is transformed into matter. In the theory of relativity, mass is not an absolute quantity. A mass moving with a high velocity with respect to the observer will display more mass than a mass at rest.

What is the difference between matter and energy?

• Universe consists of matter, which can be divided into energy and mass. Energy is a part of matter.

• Matter in the universe is a conserved property, while energy is only conserved in closed systems where no mass change is possible.