Thursday, 23 August 2012


¤ Introduction:

The most of general sense of thermodynamics is the study of energy and its relationship to the properties of matter. All activities in nature involve some interaction between energy and matter. Thermodynamics is a science that governs the following:

  • (i) Energy and its transformation
  • (ii) Feasibility of a process involving transformation of energy
  • (iii) Feasibility of a process involving transfer of energy
  • (iv) Equilibrium processes

More specifically, thermodynamics deals with energy conversion, energy exchange and the direction of exchange.

¤ Areas of Application of Thermodynamics:

All natural processes are governed by the principles of thermodynamics. However, the following engineering devices are typically designed based on the principles of thermodynamics.

Automotive engines, Turbines, Compressors, Pumps, Fossil and Nuclear Power Plants, Propulsion systems for the Aircrafts, Separation and Liquefaction Plant, Refrigeration, Air-conditioning and Heating Devices.

The principles of thermodynamics are summarized in the form of a set of axioms. These axioms are known as four thermodynamic laws:

  • Zeroth law of thermodynamics,
  • First law of thermodynamics,
  • Second law of thermodynamics, and
  • Third law of thermodynamics.

The Zeroth Law deals with thermal equilibrium and provides a means for measuring temperatures.

The First Law deals with the conservation of energy and introduces the concept of internal energy.

The Second Law of thermodynamics provides with the guidelines on the conversion of internal energy of matter into work. It also introduces the concept of entropy.

The Third Law of thermodynamics defines the absolute zero of entropy. The entropy of a pure crystalline substance at absolute zero temperature is zero.

¤ Different Approaches in the Study of Thermodynamics:

There are two ways through which the subject of thermodynamics can be studied

  • Macroscopic Approach
  • Microscopic Approach

¤ Macroscopic Approach:

Consider a certain amount of gas in a cylindrical container. The volume (V) can be measured by measuring the diameter and the height of the cylinder. The pressure (P) of the gas can be measured by a pressure gauge. The temperature (T) of the gas can be measured using a thermometer. The state of the gas can be specified by the measured P, V and T . The values of these variables are space averaged characteristics of the properties of the gas under consideration. In classical thermodynamics, we often use this macroscopic approach. The macroscopic approach has the following features.

  • The structure of the matter is not considered.
  • A few variables are used to describe the state of the matter under consideration. The values of these variables are measurable following the available techniques of experimental physics.

¤ Microscopic Approach:

On the other hand, the gas can be considered as assemblage of a large number of particles each of which moves randomly with independent velocity. The state of each particle can be specified in terms of position coordinates ( xi , yi , zi ) and the momentum components ( pxi , pyi , pzi ). If we consider a gas occupying a volume of 1 cm3 at ambient temperature and pressure, the number of particles present in it is of the order of 1020. The same number of position coordinates and momentum components are needed to specify the state of the gas. The microscopic approach can be summarized as:

  • A knowledge of the molecular structure of matter under consideration is essential.
  • A large number of variables are needed for a complete specification of the state of the matter.

¤ Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics: 

This is one of the most fundamental laws of thermodynamics. It is the basis of temperature and heat transfer between two systems. Suppose we take three thermodynamic system named System A, System B and System C. Now let that system A is in thermal equilibrium with system B. By thermal equilibrium we mean that there is no heat transfer between system A and system B when they are brought in contact with each other. Now, suppose system A is in thermal equilibrium with system C too and there is no contact between system B and system C. It implies that although system B and C are isolated from each other, they will remain at thermal equilibrium to each other. It means that there will be no heat transfer between system B and C, when they are brought in contact with each other. This is called the Zeroth Law of thermodynamics.

¤ Basis of Temperature: 

When two bodies are kept at contact with each other and if there is no heat transfer between them we say that their body temperatures are same. It means that temperature is the property of a system which decides whether there will be any heat transfer between two different bodies. Heat transfer always occur from a higher temperature body to a lower temperature body. Further whenever there is any heat inflow to a body, it raises its temperature and conversely, if heat outflow occurs from a system it lowers its temperature.

Suppose we take two bodies one of which is at higher temperature than the other. Now when we bring the bodies at contact, heat will be transformed from a higher temperature body to that of lower temperature. Then what will be its effect, we may ask as a result of this heat transfer? Is this heat transfer a perpetual process? Our common life experiences tell us that it will not be the case. Although, at first heat transfer will take place, but its amount will be gradually decreased and after some time, a situation will come when there will be no heat transfer between the bodies or the bodies will come to a state of thermal equilibrium with each other. So, what is the reason for that? Can we justify the situation?

Yes, we can justify it as the hotter body releases heat to the colder body, the temperature of the hotter body decreases where as the temperature of the colder body increases and after sufficient time both the bodies will have equal temperature and a state of thermal equilibrium will be achieved.

¤ Temperature Measurement: 

We know the temperature of a body can be measured with a thermometer. How can we actually calculate the temperature of a body with the help of thermodynamics?

¤ Thermometer:

A thermometer is a temperature measuring instrument. It is made of a thin capillary glass tube, one end is closed and the other end is fitted with metallic bulb full of mercury. The mercury is in thermal equilibrium with the metallic bulb. Therefore, the temperature of the mercury is equal to the temperature of the metallic bulb. 
Mercury has a good coefficient of volume expansion and it means that as the temperature of the mercury increases, its volume increases too and as a result mercury column inside the capillary rises up. 

The capillary tube has been graduated with the help of calibrating with standard temperature sources. Therefore, the temperature of the mercury can be measured from the height of mercury column as the tube is finely graduated. 

Whenever we want to measure the temperature of a body, we kept the body in contact with the metallic bulb of the thermometer. When thermal equilibrium is established between the body and the metallic bulb of the thermoneter, the temperature of both the body will be equal again the metallic bulb is in thermal equilibrium with mercury then the temperature of the mercury will be equal to the temperature of the metallic bulb and the temperature of the object.

As we can measure the temperature of the mercury from the column height, hence we can also determine the temperature of the object as they are equal to each other.

Microscopic basis of temperature and pressure:
Here we shall try to discuss the basis of temperature and pressure only qualitatively, without any mathematical expression. me at email: for more notes

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