A flywheel is a rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy. Flywheels have an inertia called the moment of inertia and thus resist changes in rotational speed. The amount of energy stored in a flywheel is proportional to the square of its rotational speed. Energy is transferred to a flywheel by the application of a torque to it, thereby increasing its rotational speed, and hence its stored energy. Conversely, a flywheel releases stored energy by applying torque to a mechanical load, thereby decreasing the flywheel's rotational speed.
Common uses of a flywheel include:
Providing continuous energy when the energy source is discontinuous. For example, flywheels are used in reciprocating engines because the energy source, torque from the engine, is intermittent.
Delivering energy at rates beyond the ability of a continuous energy source. This is achieved by collecting energy in the flywheel over time and then releasing the energy quickly, at rates that exceed the abilities of the energy source.
Controlling the orientation of a mechanical system. In such applications, the angular momentum of a flywheel is purposely transferred as a torque to the attaching mechanical system when energy is transferred to or from the flywheel, thereby causing the attaching system to rotate into some desired position.