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  • Describe the processes of a simple heat engine.
  • Explain the differences among the simple thermodynamic processes—isobaric, isochoric, isothermal, and adiabatic.
  • Calculate total work done in a cyclical thermodynamic process.
An old photo of a steam turbine at a turbine production plant. People are shown working on the turbine.
Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, humans have harnessed power through the use of the first law of thermodynamics, before we even understood it completely. This photo, of a steam engine at the Turbinia Works, dates from 1911, a mere 61 years after the first explicit statement of the first law of thermodynamics by Rudolph Clausius. (credit: public domain; author unknown)

One of the most important things we can do with heat transfer is to use it to do work for us. Such a device is called a heat engine    . Car engines and steam turbines that generate electricity are examples of heat engines. [link] shows schematically how the first law of thermodynamics applies to the typical heat engine.

The figure shows a schematic representation of a heat engine. The heat engine is represented by a circle. The heat entering the system is shown as Q sub in, represented as a bold arrow toward the circle, and the heat coming out of the heat engine is shown as Q sub out, represented by a narrower bold arrow leaving the circle. The work labeled as W is shown to leave the heat engine as represented by another bold arrow leaving the circle. At the center of the circle are two equations. First, the change in internal energy of the system, delta U, equals zero. Consequently, W equals Q sub in minus Q sub out.
Schematic representation of a heat engine, governed, of course, by the first law of thermodynamics. It is impossible to devise a system where Q out = 0 size 12{Q rSub { size 8{"out"} } =0} {} , that is, in which no heat transfer occurs to the environment.
Figure a shows a piston attached to a movable cylinder which is attached to the right of another gas filled cylinder. The heat Q sub in is shown to be transferred to the gas in the cylinder as shown by a bold arrow toward it. The force of the gas on the moving cylinder with the piston is shown as F equals P times A shown as a vector arrow pointing toward the right. The change in internal energy is marked in the diagram as delta U sub a equals Q sub in. Figure b shows a piston attached to a movable cylinder which is attached to the right of another gas filled cylinder. The force of the gas has moved the cylinder with the piston by a distance d toward the right. The change in internal energy is marked in the diagram as delta U sub b equals negative W sub out. The piston is shown to have done work by change in position, marked as F d equal to W sub out. Figure c shows a piston attached to a movable cylinder which is attached to the right of another gas filled cylinder. The piston attached to the cylinder is shown to reach back to the initial position shown in figure a. The distance d is traveled back and heat Q sub out is shown to leave the system as represented by an outward arrow. The force driving backward is shown as a vector arrow pointing to the left, labeled F prime. F prime is shown less than F. The work done by the force F prime is shown by the equation W sub in equal to F prime times d.
(a) Heat transfer to the gas in a cylinder increases the internal energy of the gas, creating higher pressure and temperature. (b) The force exerted on the movable cylinder does work as the gas expands. Gas pressure and temperature decrease when it expands, indicating that the gas’s internal energy has been decreased by doing work. (c) Heat transfer to the environment further reduces pressure in the gas so that the piston can be more easily returned to its starting position.

The illustrations above show one of the ways in which heat transfer does work. Fuel combustion produces heat transfer to a gas in a cylinder, increasing the pressure of the gas and thereby the force it exerts on a movable piston. The gas does work on the outside world, as this force moves the piston through some distance. Heat transfer to the gas cylinder results in work being done. To repeat this process, the piston needs to be returned to its starting point. Heat transfer now occurs from the gas to the surroundings so that its pressure decreases, and a force is exerted by the surroundings to push the piston back through some distance. Variations of this process are employed daily in hundreds of millions of heat engines. We will examine heat engines in detail in the next section. In this section, we consider some of the simpler underlying processes on which heat engines are based.

PV Diagrams and their relationship to work done on or by a gas

A process by which a gas does work on a piston at constant pressure is called an isobaric process    . Since the pressure is constant, the force exerted is constant and the work done is given as

P Δ V . size 12{PΔV} {}
The diagram shows an isobaric expansion of a gas filled cylinder held vertically. V is the volume of gas in the cylinder. A is the area of cross section of the cylinder. The cylinder has a movable piston with a rod attached to it at the top of the cylinder. A heat Q sub in is shown to enter the cylinder from below. A force F equals P times A is shown to act upward from the bottom of the cylinder. The piston is shown to have been displaced by a vertical distance d upward. The volume displaced is given by delta V equals A times d. The work output shown as W sub out is equal to F times d, which is also equal to P times A times d, which in turn equals P times delta V.
An isobaric expansion of a gas requires heat transfer to keep the pressure constant. Since pressure is constant, the work done is P Δ V size 12{PΔV} {} .
W = Fd size 12{W= ital "Fd"} {}

See the symbols as shown in [link] . Now F = PA size 12{F= ital "PA"} {} , and so

W = PAd . size 12{W= ital "PAd"} {}

Because the volume of a cylinder is its cross-sectional area A size 12{A} {} times its length d size 12{d} {} , we see that Ad = Δ V size 12{ ital "Ad"=ΔV} {} , the change in volume; thus,

Questions & Answers

does the force in a system result in the energy transfer?
Lebatam Reply
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Kaka Reply
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Olubukola Reply
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Kaka Reply
prove that centripetal force Fc = MV² ______ r
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mitul Reply
griffts bridge derivative
Ganesh Reply
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Timothy Reply
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dust particles contains both positive and negative charge particles
corona charge can verify
when pressure increases the temperature remain what?
Ibrahim Reply
remains the temperature
what is frequency
Mbionyi Reply
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Sujitha Reply
CT scanners do not detect details smaller than about 0.5 mm. Is this limitation due to the wavelength of x rays? Explain.
hope this helps
what's critical angle
Mahmud Reply
The Critical Angle Derivation So the critical angle is defined as the angle of incidence that provides an angle of refraction of 90-degrees. Make particular note that the critical angle is an angle of incidence value. For the water-air boundary, the critical angle is 48.6-degrees.
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pls who can give the definition of relative density?
the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a standard, usually water for a liquid or solid, and air for a gas.
What is momentum
aliyu Reply
mass ×velocity
it is the product of mass ×velocity of an object
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Sean Reply
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Practice Key Terms 6

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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