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Elementary Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is the study of heat, temperature, and their related effects in physical systems. As a subject, thermodynamics is quite complex and expansive, usually taught as a course in itself at universities. The coverage in this book is limited to some of the more elementary and immediately practical facets of thermodynamics rather than a comprehensive overview.


Heat versus Temperature  -  Most people use the words heat and temperature interchangeably, as though they meant the exact same thing. This is unfortunate for every student of thermodynamics, who must first deconstruct this false conception and replace it with one more scientifically accurate before any progress may be made...Click here to read more about Heat versus Temperature 

Temperature  -  In an ideal, monatomic gas (one atom per molecule), the mathematical relationship between average molecular velocity and temperature is as follows... Click here to read more about Temperature

Heat  -  Heat, being the transfer of energy in thermal (molecular motion) form, may measured in the same units as energy is measured: joules (metric) and foot-pounds (British). However, alternate units of measurement are often used specifically for heat instead... Click here to read more about Heat

Heat transfer  -  Heat spontaneously flows from higher-temperature substances to lower-temperature substances. This is the phenomenon you experience standing next to a fire on a cold day. Your body is cold (low temperature), but the fire is much hotter (high temperature), and your proximity to the fire aids in heat transfer from the fire to you... Click here to read more about Heat Transfer


Specific Heat and Enthalpy -  Earlier, we saw how units of heat measurement were defined in terms of the amount of energy gain or loss required to alter the temperature of a water sample by one degree. In the case of the calorie, it was the amount of heat gain/loss required to heat/cool one gram of water one degree Celsius. In the case of the BTU, it was the amount of heat gain/loss required to heat/cool one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit... Click here to read more about Specific Heat and Enthalpy

Phase Changes  -  Scientists often speak of four phases of matter: solid, liquid, gas (or vapor), and plasma. Of these four, the first three are common to everyday life. Plasma is a phase of matter where the atoms of a gas a superheated to the point where they become electrically ionized, such as neon gas in an electric tube light, or the gas comprising stars in space... Click here to read more about Phase Changes

Phase Diagrams and Critical Points  -  A comprehensive way of describing the relationship between pressure, temperature, and substance phase is with something called a phase diagram. With pressure shown on one axis, and temperature on the other, a phase diagram describes the various phases of a substance in possible equilibrium at certain pressure/temperature combinations... Click here to read more about Phase Diagrams and Critical Points

Thermodynamic Degrees of Freedom  -  If we look at the areas bounded by phase transition curves in a phase diagram (solid area, liquid area, and vapor area), we see that both pressure and temperature may change independent of one another. A vessel filled with liquid water, for instance, may be at 30 degrees Celsius and 2 atmospheres, or at 50 degrees Celsius and 2 atmospheres, or at 50 degrees Celsius and 1 atmosphere, all equally stable... Click here to read more about Thermodynamic Degrees of Freedom

Applications of Phase Changes  -  Applications of phase changes abound in industrial and commercial processes. Some of these applications exploit phase changes for certain production goals, such as the storage and transport of energy. Others merely serve to illustrate certain phenomena such as latent heat and degrees of thermodynamic freedom. This subsection will highlight several different processes for your learning benefit... Click here to read more about Applications of Phase Changes

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