<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Discuss the concept of entropy
  • Explain the first and second laws of thermodynamics

Thermodynamics refers to the study of energy and energy transfer involving physical matter. The matter and its environment relevant to a particular case of energy transfer are classified as a system, and everything outside of that system is called the surroundings. For instance, when heating a pot of water on the stove, the system includes the stove, the pot, and the water. Energy is transferred within the system (between the stove, pot, and water). There are two types of systems: open and closed. An open system is one in which energy can be transferred between the system and its surroundings. The stovetop system is open because heat can be lost into the air. A closed system is one that cannot transfer energy to its surroundings.

Biological organisms are open systems. Energy is exchanged between them and their surroundings, as they consume energy-storing molecules and release energy to the environment by doing work. Like all things in the physical world, energy is subject to the laws of physics. The laws of thermodynamics govern the transfer of energy in and among all systems in the universe.

The first law of thermodynamics

The first law of thermodynamics deals with the total amount of energy in the universe. It states that this total amount of energy is constant. In other words, there has always been, and always will be, exactly the same amount of energy in the universe. Energy exists in many different forms. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy may be transferred from place to place or transformed into different forms, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The transfers and transformations of energy take place around us all the time. Light bulbs transform electrical energy into light energy. Gas stoves transform chemical energy from natural gas into heat energy. Plants perform one of the most biologically useful energy transformations on earth: that of converting the energy of sunlight into the chemical energy stored within organic molecules ( [link] ). Some examples of energy transformations are shown in [link] .

The challenge for all living organisms is to obtain energy from their surroundings in forms that they can transfer or transform into usable energy to do work. Living cells have evolved to meet this challenge very well. Chemical energy stored within organic molecules such as sugars and fats is transformed through a series of cellular chemical reactions into energy within molecules of ATP. Energy in ATP molecules is easily accessible to do work. Examples of the types of work that cells need to do include building complex molecules, transporting materials, powering the beating motion of cilia or flagella, contracting muscle fibers to create movement, and reproduction.

The left side of this diagram depicts energy being transferred from an ice cream cone to two boys riding a bike. The right side depicts a plant converting light energy into chemical energy.
Shown are two examples of energy being transferred from one system to another and transformed from one form to another. Humans can convert the chemical energy in food, like this ice cream cone, into kinetic energy (the energy of movement to ride a bicycle). Plants can convert electromagnetic radiation (light energy) from the sun into chemical energy. (credit “ice cream”: modification of work by D. Sharon Pruitt; credit “kids on bikes”: modification of work by Michelle Riggen-Ransom; credit “leaf”: modification of work by Cory Zanker)

Questions & Answers

what is biology
enock Reply
what type of fluid is filled in hydroskeretal system
Ngenda Reply
The phenomenon by which Protoplasm of a cell shrinks from the wall is 
test Reply
which vein connective from harm to Brian
Burton Reply
which nevel succulate blood system from harm to hear
if an organism is cartilaginous is fully capable of a protecting the internal organs
Verah Reply
what is different between cell and tissue
Rose Reply
cell is the functional and structural unit of life while tissue is a group of cells aggregate to perform a similar or particular function
cell is the basic unit of life while tissue is group of related cells that perform the same function Eg. the nerve tissue is made up of nerve cells
please what is meant by mutation
Kyere Reply
mutation is the change in DNA which results in the evolution
what is binominal nomenclature?
Furaha Reply
the system of naming organisms depending on their xtics of origin
The system of naming organisms using two-words Latin names
what is the fate of reduced NAD in cell metabolism
namirembe Reply
what is plant cell
what is the importance of meoisis
Kamasa Reply
it also aids in formation of pollen grain in anther and formation of ovules in ovary of flowering plant
it also aids in formation of sperm or ova in animals
explain the function of the skeleton
Jonathan Reply
skeleton is mainly the infrastructure of the organisms
what 's different between immunity and vaccination
Symon Reply
vaccination simply refers to as drugs usually injected,most times in a liquid form given to a person or an animal,while immunity refers to a source of prevention usually in a liquid form that help in disease prevention
In children
Golgi apparatus helps in the formation of lysosomes
what is the difference between placenta and umbilical cord?
Grace Reply
No difference
what's golgi apparatus.
What is biology
Rita Reply
is the study of living things
biology is the study of living and non living things
Biology is the study of living things
the study of living organisms
Biology is the study of living organism or things
Biology is the study of both living and non living things

Get the best Biology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?