Most commonly brakes use friction to convert kinetic energy into heat, though other methods of energy conversion may be employed. For example regenerative braking converts much of the energy to electrical energy, which may be stored for later use. Other methods convert kinetic energy into potential energy in such stored forms as pressurized air or pressurized oil. Still other braking methods even transform kinetic energy into different forms, for example by transferring the energy to a rotating flywheel.
Brakes are generally applied to rotating axles or wheels, but may also take other forms such as the surface of a moving fluid (flaps deployed into water or air). Some vehicles use a combination of braking mechanisms, such as drag racing cars with both wheel brakes and a parachute, or airplanes with both wheel brakes and drag flaps raised into the air during landing.
Since kinetic energy increases quadratically with velocity (K = mv2 / 2), an object traveling at 10 meters per second has 100 times as much energy as one traveling at 1 meter per second, and consequently the theoretical braking distance, when braking at the traction limit, is 100 times as long. In practice, fast vehicles usually have significant air drag, and energy lost to air drag rises quickly with speed.
Almost all wheeled vehicles have a brake of some sort. Even baggage carts and shopping carts may have them for use on a moving ramp. Most fixed-wing aircraft are fitted with wheel brakes on the undercarriage. Some aircraft also feature air brakes designed to reduce their speed in flight. Notable examples include gliders and some World War II-era aircraft, primarily some fighter aircraft and many dive bombers of the era. These allow the aircraft to maintain a safe speed in a steep descent. The Saab B 17 dive bomber used the deployed undercarriage as an air brake.
Friction brakes on automobiles store braking heat in the drum brake or disc brake while braking then conduct it to the air gradually. When traveling downhill some vehicles can use their engines to brake.
When the brake pedal is pushed a piston pushes the pad towards the brake disc which slows the wheel down. On the brake drum it is similar as the cylinder pushes the brake shoes towards the drum which also slows the wheel down.