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  • Define the first law of thermodynamics.
  • Describe how conservation of energy relates to the first law of thermodynamics.
  • Identify instances of the first law of thermodynamics working in everyday situations, including biological metabolism.
  • Calculate changes in the internal energy of a system, after accounting for heat transfer and work done.
The photograph shows water boiling in a tea kettle kept on a stove. The water vapor is shown to emerge out of the nozzle of the kettle.
This boiling tea kettle represents energy in motion. The water in the kettle is turning to water vapor because heat is being transferred from the stove to the kettle. As the entire system gets hotter, work is done—from the evaporation of the water to the whistling of the kettle. (credit: Gina Hamilton)

If we are interested in how heat transfer is converted into doing work, then the conservation of energy principle is important. The first law of thermodynamics applies the conservation of energy principle to systems where heat transfer and doing work are the methods of transferring energy into and out of the system. The first law of thermodynamics    states that the change in internal energy of a system equals the net heat transfer into the system minus the net work done by the system. In equation form, the first law of thermodynamics is

Δ U = Q W . size 12{ΔU=Q - W} {}

Here Δ U size 12{ΔU} {} is the change in internal energy U size 12{U} {} of the system. Q size 12{Q} {} is the net heat transferred into the system —that is, Q size 12{Q} {} is the sum of all heat transfer into and out of the system. W size 12{W} {} is the net work done by the system —that is, W size 12{W} {} is the sum of all work done on or by the system. We use the following sign conventions: if Q size 12{Q} {} is positive, then there is a net heat transfer into the system; if W size 12{W} {} is positive, then there is net work done by the system. So positive Q size 12{Q} {} adds energy to the system and positive W size 12{W} {} takes energy from the system. Thus Δ U = Q W size 12{ΔU=Q - W} {} . Note also that if more heat transfer into the system occurs than work done, the difference is stored as internal energy. Heat engines are a good example of this—heat transfer into them takes place so that they can do work. (See [link] .) We will now examine Q size 12{Q} {} , W size 12{W} {} , and Δ U size 12{ΔU} {} further.

The figure shows a schematic diagram of a system shown by an ellipse. Heat Q is shown to enter the system as shown by a bold arrow toward the ellipse. The work done is shown pointing away from the system. The internal energy of the system is marked as delta U equals Q minus W. The second part of the figure shows two arrow diagrams for the heat change Q and work W. Q is shown as Q in minus Q out. W is shown as W out minus W in.
The first law of thermodynamics is the conservation-of-energy principle stated for a system where heat and work are the methods of transferring energy for a system in thermal equilibrium. Q size 12{Q} {} represents the net heat transfer—it is the sum of all heat transfers into and out of the system. Q size 12{Q} {} is positive for net heat transfer into the system. W size 12{W} {} is the total work done on and by the system. W size 12{W} {} is positive when more work is done by the system than on it. The change in the internal energy of the system, Δ U size 12{ΔU} {} , is related to heat and work by the first law of thermodynamics, Δ U = Q W size 12{ΔU=Q - W} {} .

Making connections: law of thermodynamics and law of conservation of energy

The first law of thermodynamics is actually the law of conservation of energy stated in a form most useful in thermodynamics. The first law gives the relationship between heat transfer, work done, and the change in internal energy of a system.

Heat Q And work W

Heat transfer ( Q size 12{Q} {} ) and doing work ( W size 12{W} {} ) are the two everyday means of bringing energy into or taking energy out of a system. The processes are quite different. Heat transfer, a less organized process, is driven by temperature differences. Work, a quite organized process, involves a macroscopic force exerted through a distance. Nevertheless, heat and work can produce identical results. For example, both can cause a temperature increase. Heat transfer into a system, such as when the Sun warms the air in a bicycle tire, can increase its temperature, and so can work done on the system, as when the bicyclist pumps air into the tire. Once the temperature increase has occurred, it is impossible to tell whether it was caused by heat transfer or by doing work. This uncertainty is an important point. Heat transfer and work are both energy in transit—neither is stored as such in a system. However, both can change the internal energy U size 12{U} {} of a system. Internal energy is a form of energy completely different from either heat or work.

Questions & Answers

explain the three laws of isaac Newton with the reference
glory Reply
1st law ; a body will continue to stay at a state of rest or continue to move at a uniform motion on a straight line unless an external force is been acted upon
Austine
3rd law; in every action there is an equal or opposite reaction
Austine
2nd law: F=ma
Austine
why am i not having access to the Link in your exemples /figures ?
Augustine Reply
what is circut
hasiya Reply
newtons law of motion
hasiya
First law:In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.
Manan
is the ability to do work
Adjah Reply
Energy
Nwany
u from
Hejreen
any body online hain
Hejreen
ability to do work is energy
Irshad
what is energy
Mercy Reply
energy is ability of the capacity to doing work
shafiu
what is vector
mosco Reply
A quantity that has both magnitude and direction
Donaldo
can a body with out mass float in space
mosco
Is the quantity that has both magnitude and direction
Amoah
Yes it can float in space,e.g.polyethene has no mass that's why it can float in space
Amoah
that's my suggestion,any other explanation can be given also,thanks
Amoah
A charge of 1.6*10^-6C is placed in a uniform electric field in a density 2*5^10Nc^-1, what is the magnitude of the electric force exerted on the charge?
Omotosho Reply
what's phenomena
Enoch Reply
Phenomena is an observable fact or event.
Love
Prove that 1/d+1/v=1/f
James Reply
What interference
Moyinoluwa Reply
What is a polarized light called?
Moyinoluwa
what is a half life
Mama Reply
the time taken for a radioactive element to decay by half of its original mass
ken
what is radioactive element
mohammed
Half of the total time required by a radioactive nuclear atom to totally disintegrate
Justice
radioactive elements are those with unstable nuclei(ie have protons more than neutrons, or neutrons more than protons
Justice
in other words, the radioactive atom or elements have unequal number of protons to neutrons.
Justice
state the laws of refraction
Fabian
state laws of reflection
Fabian
Why does a bicycle rider bends towards the corner when is turning?
Mac
When do we say that the stone thrown vertically up wards accelerate negatively?
Mac
Give two importance of insulator placed between plates of a capacitor.
Mac
Macho had a shoe with a big sole moving in mudy Road, shanitah had a shoe with a small sole. Give reasons for those two cases.
Mac
when was the name taken from
Biola Reply
retardation of a car
Biola
when was the name retardation taken
Biola
did you mean a motion with velocity decreases uniformly by the time? then, the vector acceleration is opposite direction with vector velocity
Sphere
what's velocity
mosco
Velocity is the rate of change of displacement
Divya
Atomic transmutation
Basirat Reply
An atom is the smallest indivisible particular of an element
mosco Reply
what is an atomic
Awene Reply
Practice Key Terms 3

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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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