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Laws of Thermodynamics

Foundations of the Laws of Thermodynamics


The field of thermodynamics deals with systems that are able to transfer thermal energy into at least one other form of energy (mechanical, electrical, etc.) or into work. The laws of thermodynamics were developed over the years as some of the most fundamental rules which are followed when a thermodynamic system goes through some sort of energy change.

Consequences of the Laws of Thermodynamics

The laws of thermodynamics tend to be fairly easy to state and understand ... so much so that it's easy to underestimate the impact they have. Among other things, they put constraints on how energy can be used in the universe. It would be very hard to over-emphasize how significant this concept is. The consequences of the laws of thermodynamics touch on almost every aspect of scientific inquiry in some way.

Key Concepts for Understanding the Laws of Thermodynamics

To understand the laws of thermodynamics, it's essential to understand some other thermodynamics concepts that relate to them.

Development of the Laws of Thermodynamics

The study of heat as a distinct form of energy began in approximately 1798 when Sir Benjamin Thompson (also known as Count Rumford), a British military engineer, noticed that heat could be generated in proportion to the amount of work done ... a fundamental concept which would ultimately become a consequence of the first law of thermodynamics.

French physicist Sadi Carnot first formulated a basic principle of thermodynamics in 1824. The principles which Carnot used to define his Carnot cycle heat engine would ultimately translate into the second law of thermodynamics by the German physicist Rudolf Clausius, who is also frequently credited with the formulation of the first law of thermodynamics.

Part of the reason for the rapid development of thermodynamics in the nineteenth century was the need to develop efficient steam engines during the industrial revolution.

Kinetic Theory & the Laws of Thermodynamics

The laws of thermodynamics do not particularly concern themselves with the specific how and why of heat transfer, which makes sense for laws that were formulated before atomic theory was fully adopted. They deal with the sum total of energy and heat transitions within a system, and do not take into account the specific nature of heat transference on the atomic or molecular level.
Laws of Thermodynamics
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