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30 min.

Energy and heat and entropy
This short lecture introduces the ideas required for Ice Calorimetry Lab or Microwave oven Ice Calorimetry Lab.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Heat and Temperature of Water Vapor
In this introduction to heat capacity, students determine a derivative that indicates how much the internal energy changes as the temperature changes when volume is held constant.


120 min.

Work, Heat, and cycles
These lecture notes covering week 8 of https://paradigms.oregonstate.edu/courses/ph441 include a small group activity in which students derive the Carnot efficiency.
  1. Solve for the heat capacity of a vacuum, given the above, and assuming that photons represent all the energy present in vacuum.
  2. Compare the heat capacity of vacuum at room temperature with the heat capacity of an equal volume of water.


5 min.

Heat pump
  1. Show that for a reversible heat pump the energy required per unit of heat delivered inside the building is given by the Carnot efficiency: \begin{align} \frac{W}{Q_H} &= \eta_C = \frac{T_H-T_C}{T_H} \end{align} What happens if the heat pump is not reversible?

  2. Assume that the electricity consumed by a reversible heat pump must itself be generated by a Carnot engine operating between the even hotter temperature \(T_{HH}\) and the cold (outdoors) temperature \(T_C\). What is the ratio \(\frac{Q_{HH}}{Q_H}\) of the heat consumed at \(T_{HH}\) (i.e. fuel burned) to the heat delivered at \(T_H\) (in the house we want to heat)? Give numerical values for \(T_{HH}=600\text{K}\); \(T_{H}=300\text{K}\); \(T_{C}=270\text{K}\).

  3. Draw an energy-entropy flow diagram for the combination heat engine-heat pump, similar to Figures 8.1, 8.2 and 8.4 in the text (or the equivalent but sloppier) figures in the course notes. However, in this case we will involve no external work at all, only energy and entropy flows at three temperatures, since the work done is all generated from heat.

The pressure of water vapor over ice is 518 Pa at \(-2^\circ\text{C}\). The vapor pressure of water at its triple point is 611 Pa, at 0.01\(^\circ\text{C}\) (see Estimate in \(\text{J mol}^{-1}\) the heat of vaporization of ice just under freezing. How does this compare with the heat of vaporization of water?
Consider a column of atoms each of mass \(M\) at temperature \(T\) in a uniform gravitational field \(g\). Find the thermal average potential energy per atom. The thermal average kinetic energy is independent of height. Find the total heat capacity per atom. The total heat capacity is the sum of contributions from the kinetic energy and from the potential energy. Take the zero of the gravitational energy at the bottom \(h=0\) of the column. Integrate from \(h=0\) to \(h=\infty\). You may assume the gas is ideal.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Using \(pV\) and \(TS\) Plots
Students work out heat and work for rectangular paths on \(pV\) and \(TS\) plots. This gives with computing heat and work, applying the First Law, and recognizing that internal energy is a state function, which cannot change after a cyclic process.


Heat shields
A black (nonreflective) sheet of metal at high temperature \(T_h\) is parallel to a cold black sheet of metal at temperature \(T_c\). Each sheet has an area \(A\) which is much greater than the distance between them. The sheets are in vacuum, so energy can only be transferred by radiation.
  1. Solve for the net power transferred between the two sheets.

  2. A third black metal sheet is inserted between the other two and is allowed to come to a steady state temperature \(T_m\). Find the temperature of the middle sheet, and solve for the new net power transferred between the hot and cold sheets. This is the principle of the heat shield, and is part of how the James Web telescope shield works.
  3. Optional: Find the power through an \(N\)-layer sandwich.

Consider a system of fixed volume in thermal contact with a resevoir. Show that the mean square fluctuations in the energy of the system is \begin{equation} \left<\left(\varepsilon-\langle\varepsilon\rangle\right)^2\right> = k_BT^2\left(\frac{\partial U}{\partial T}\right)_{V} \end{equation} Here \(U\) is the conventional symbol for \(\langle\varepsilon\rangle\). Hint: Use the partition function \(Z\) to relate \(\left(\frac{\partial U}{\partial T}\right)_V\) to the mean square fluctuation. Also, multiply out the term \((\cdots)^2\).

You are given the following Gibbs free energy: \begin{equation*} G=-k T N \ln \left(\frac{a T^{5 / 2}}{p}\right) \end{equation*} where \(a\) is a constant (whose dimensions make the argument of the logarithm dimensionless).

  1. Compute the entropy.

  2. Work out the heat capacity at constant pressure \(C_p\).

  3. Find the connection among \(V\), \(p\), \(N\), and \(T\), which is called the equation of state (Hint: find the volume as a partial derivative of the Gibbs free energy).

  4. Compute the internal energy \(U\).

At a power plant that produces 1 GW (\(10^{9} \text{watts}\)) of electricity, the steam turbines take in steam at a temperature of \(500^{o}C\), and the waste energy is expelled into the environment at \(20^{o}C\).

  1. What is the maximum possible efficiency of this plant?

  2. Suppose you arrange the power plant to expel its waste energy into a chilly mountain river at \(15^oC\). Roughly how much money can you make in a year by installing your improved hardware, if you sell the additional electricity for 10 cents per kilowatt-hour?

  3. At what rate will the plant expel waste energy into this river?

  4. Assume the river's flow rate is 100 m\(^{3}/\)s. By how much will the temperature of the river increase?

  5. To avoid this “thermal pollution” of the river the plant could instead be cooled by evaporation of river water. This is more expensive, but it is environmentally preferable. At what rate must the water evaporate? What fraction of the river must be evaporated?

It has been proposed to use the thermal gradient of the ocean to drive a heat engine. Suppose that at a certain location the water temperature is \(22^\circ\)C at the ocean surface and \(4^{o}\)C at the ocean floor.

  1. What is the maximum possible efficiency of an engine operating between these two temperatures?

  2. If the engine is to produce 1 GW of electrical power, what minimum volume of water must be processed every second? Note that the specific heat capacity of water \(c_p = 4.2\) Jg\(^{-1}\)K\(^{-1}\) and the density of water is 1 g cm\(^{-3}\), and both are roughly constant over this temperature range.

Consider the bottle in a bottle problem in a previous problem set, summarized here.

A small bottle of helium is placed inside a large bottle, which otherwise contains vacuum. The inner bottle contains a slow leak, so that the helium leaks into the outer bottle. The inner bottle contains one tenth the volume of the outer bottle, which is insulated.

The volume of the small bottle is 0.001 m23 and the volume of the big bottle is 0.01 m3. The initial state of the gas in the small bottle was \(p=106\) Pa and its temperature \(T=300\) K. Approximate the helium gas as an ideal gas of equations of state \(pV=Nk_BT\) and \(U=\frac32 Nk_BT\).

  1. How many molecules of gas does the large bottle contain? What is the final temperature of the gas?

  2. Compute the integral \(\int \frac{{\mathit{\unicode{273}}} Q}{T}\) and the change of entropy \(\Delta S\) between the initial state (gas in the small bottle) and the final state (gas leaked in the big bottle).

  3. Discuss your results.


30 min.

Equipartition theorem
This lecture introduces the equipartition theorem.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Ice Calorimetry Lab
The students will set up a Styrofoam cup with heating element and a thermometer in it. They will measure the temperature as a function of time, and thus the energy transferred from the power supply, from which they compute changes in entropy.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Heat capacity of N2
Students sketch the temperature-dependent heat capacity of molecular nitrogen. They apply the equipartition theorem and compute the temperatures at which degrees of freedom “freeze out.”


10 min.

Basics of heat engines
This brief lecture covers the basics of heat engines.
  • Found in: Contemporary Challenges course(s)


30 min.

Introducing entropy
This lecture introduces the idea of entropy, including the relationship between entropy and multiplicity as well as the relationship between changes in entropy and heat.
In this remote-friendly activity, students use a microwave oven (and optionally a thermometer) to measure the latent heat of melting for water (and optionally the heat capacity). From these they compute changes in entropy. See also Ice Calorimetry Lab.