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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define a thermodynamic system, its boundary, and its surroundings
  • Explain the roles of all the components involved in thermodynamics
  • Define thermal equilibrium and thermodynamic temperature
  • Link an equation of state to a system

A thermodynamic system    includes anything whose thermodynamic properties are of interest. It is embedded in its surroundings    or environment    ; it can exchange heat with, and do work on, its environment through a boundary    , which is the imagined wall that separates the system and the environment ( [link] ). In reality, the immediate surroundings of the system are interacting with it directly and therefore have a much stronger influence on its behavior and properties. For example, if we are studying a car engine, the burning gasoline inside the cylinder of the engine is the thermodynamic system; the piston, exhaust system, radiator, and air outside form the surroundings of the system. The boundary then consists of the inner surfaces of the cylinder and piston.

Figure a illustrates the concept of a system. A boundary separates the system, inside the boundary, from the surroundings, outside the boundary. Figure b is a schematic illustration of an engine cylinder as an example of a specific system. The system is the gas inside the piston. The boundary consists of the cylinder body containing the gas and the piston that caps the cylinder at the top. The surroundings consist of everything outside the cylinder and above the piston.
(a) A system, which can include any relevant process or value, is self-contained in an area. The surroundings may also have relevant information; however, the surroundings are important to study only if the situation is an open system. (b) The burning gasoline in the cylinder of a car engine is an example of a thermodynamic system.

Normally, a system must have some interactions with its surroundings. A system is called an isolated or closed system    if it is completely separated from its environment—for example, a gas that is surrounded by immovable and thermally insulating walls. In reality, a closed system does not exist unless the entire universe is treated as the system, or it is used as a model for an actual system that has minimal interactions with its environment. Most systems are known as an open system    , which can exchange energy and/or matter with its surroundings ( [link] ).

Figure a is a photograph of a tea kettle on a stove. Steam is seen coming out of the nozzle of the kettle. Figure b is a photograph of a pressure cooker on a stove.
(a) This boiling tea kettle is an open thermodynamic system. It transfers heat and matter (steam) to its surroundings. (b) A pressure cooker is a good approximation to a closed system. A little steam escapes through the top valve to prevent explosion. (credit a: modification of work by Gina Hamilton)

When we examine a thermodynamic system, we ignore the difference in behavior from place to place inside the system for a given moment. In other words, we concentrate on the macroscopic properties of the system, which are the averages of the microscopic properties of all the molecules or entities in the system. Any thermodynamic system is therefore treated as a continuum that has the same behavior everywhere inside. We assume the system is in equilibrium    . You could have, for example, a temperature gradient across the system. However, when we discuss a thermodynamic system in this chapter, we study those that have uniform properties throughout the system.

Before we can carry out any study on a thermodynamic system, we need a fundamental characterization of the system. When we studied a mechanical system, we focused on the forces and torques on the system, and their balances dictated the mechanical equilibrium of the system. In a similar way, we should examine the heat transfer between a thermodynamic system and its environment or between the different parts of the system, and its balance should dictate the thermal equilibrium of the system. Intuitively, such a balance is reached if the temperature becomes the same for different objects or parts of the system in thermal contact, and the net heat transfer over time becomes zero.

Questions & Answers

A closely wound search coil has an area of 4cm^2,1000 turns and a resistance of 40ohm. It is connected to a ballistic galvanometer whose resistance is 24 ohm. When coil is rotated from a position parallel to uniform magnetic field to one perpendicular to field,the galvanometer indicates a charge
Palak Reply
Using Kirchhoff's rules, when choosing your loops, can you choose a loop that doesn't have a voltage?
Michael Reply
how was the check your understand 12.7 solved?
Bysteria Reply
LOAK Reply
he's the father of 3 newton law
he is Chris Issaac's father :)
how to name covalent bond
Bryan Reply
what do you understand by the drift voltage
Brunelle Reply
what do you understand by drift velocity
well when you apply a small electric field to a conductor that causes to add a little velocity to charged particle than usual, which become their average speed, that is what we call a drift.
drift velocity
what is an electromotive force?
Danilo Reply
It is the amount of other forms of energy converted into electrical energy per unit charge that flow through it.
How electromotive force is differentiated from the terminal voltage?
in the emf power is generated while in the terminal pd power is lost.
what is then chemical name of NaCl
Sagar Reply
sodium chloride
sodium chloride
Sodium Chloride.
How can we differentiate between static point and test charge?
Comfort Reply
Wat is coplanar in physics
Humble Reply
two point charges +30c and +10c are separated by a distance of 80cm,compute the electric intensity and force on a +5×10^-6c charge place midway between the charges
Tijani Reply
what is the difference between temperature and heat
Ishom Reply
Heat is the condition or quality of being hot While Temperature is ameasure of cold or heat, often measurable with a thermometer
Temperature is the one of heat indicators of materials that can be measured with thermometers, and Heat is the quantity of calor content in material that can be measured with calorimetry.
the average kinetic energy of molecules is called temperature. heat is the method or mode to transfer energy to molecules of an object but randomly, while work is the method to transfer energy to molecules in such manner that every molecules get moved in one direction.
2. A brass rod of length 50cm and diameter 3mm is joined to a steel rod of the same length and diameter. What is the change in length of the combined rod at 250°c( degree Celsius) if the original length are 40°c(degree Celsius) is there at thermal stress developed at the junction? The end of the rod are free to expand (coefficient of linear expansion of brass = 2.0×10^-5, steel=1.2×10^-5k^1)
A charge insulator can be discharged by passing it just above a flame. Explain.
Mudassar Reply
of the three vectors in the equation F=qv×b which pairs are always at right angles?

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 2. OpenStax CNX. Oct 06, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12074/1.3
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