Applications of Thermodynamics

Have you ever imagined how reactions around take place? How the atmosphere heats up and how it cools down? How do the refrigerator and air conditioner work? Have you heard of thermodynamics or applications of thermodynamics in our routine? You might have heard this term but still are in a state of confusion. To clear the clouds of doubt on this topic, we will see what are the applications of thermodynamics in the sections below.

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What is Thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics is a branch of science which deals with the study of heat and temperature and their relation to other forms of energy. It applies to a variety of science and engineering topics such as chemical, physical, and mechanical engineering. This branch was basically developed out of a desire to improve the efficiency of steam engines.

Applications of Thermodynamics

Source: Wikipedia

What are the Different Laws of Thermodynamics?

Study of thermodynamics involves The zeroth law of thermodynamics, First law of thermodynamics, Second law of thermodynamics, Third law of thermodynamics, Boyle’s law, and Charles Law along with various properties and functions that unravel many materials as well as spiritual mysteries of nature.

Third law of thermodynamics is related to another term known as entropy that helps to understand the existence of human life

Browse more Topics under Thermodynamics

History of Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics has become part and parcel of our life. Whether travelling in a vehicle, sitting comfortably in an AC room or enjoying a cold drink from the refrigerator, you will observe the application of thermodynamics almost everywhere either directly or indirectly.

When Sadi Carnot, father of thermodynamics, proposed theorems and cycles of thermodynamics hardly anyone had imagined that his proposals would someday play such a significant role in the development of the automobile, which has become an inseparable part of our life today. Further developments of the thermodynamic cycles by sterling Diesel, Otto, and Ericson have resulted in more innovations and betterment of automobiles.

What are the applications of the second law of thermodynamics?

1) According to the law, heat always flows from a body at a higher temperature to a body at the lower temperature. This law is applicable to all types of heat engine cycles including Otto, Diesel, etc. for all types of working fluids used in the engines. This law has led to the progress of present-day vehicles.applications of thermodynamics

Source: Wikipedia

2) Another application of this law is refrigerators and heat pumps based on the Reversed Carnot Cycle. If you want to move heat from a body at a lower temperature to a body at a higher temperature, then you have to supply external work. In the original Carnot Cycle, heat produces work while in the Reversed Carnot Cycle work is provided to transfer heat from lower temperature reservoir to a higher temperature reservoir.

Removing heat from the food items in the refrigerator and throwing it away to the higher temperature atmosphere doesn’t happen automatically. We need to supply external work via the compressor to make this happen in the refrigerator.

Air conditioner and heat pump follow the similar law of thermodynamics. The air conditioner removes heat from the room and maintains it at a lower temperature by throwing the absorbed heat into the atmosphere. The heat pump absorbs heat from the atmosphere and supplies it to the room which is cooler in winters.

In both the cases above, external work/energy in the form of electricity has to be supplied; larger the temperature difference, larger is the external work required.

Other Applications of Thermodynamics

Here are some more applications of thermodynamics:

  • Sweating in a crowded room: In a crowded room, everybody (every person) starts sweating. The body starts cooling down by transferring the body heat to the sweat. Sweat evaporates adding heat to the room. Again, this happens due to the first and second law of thermodynamics in action. One thing to keep in mind, heat is not lost but transferred attaining equilibrium with maximum entropy.
  • Melting of ice cube: Ice cubes in a drink absorb heat from the drink making the drink cooler. If we forget to drink it, after some time, it again attains room temperature by absorbing the atmospheric heat. All this happens as per the first and second law of thermodynamics.
  • We use thermodynamic principles to experience success and happiness. Don’t believe? Let’s see how. You and your family is a complex adaptive system having a finite amount of energy at any given time. To thrive and survive, you have to get food externally. You need mental and emotional stimulation from the environment. Here entropy plays a major part. Entropy is a measure of things falling apart in life or business/work (as per the second law) greater the entropy, faster will be the rate of deterioration of life and business. Everybody must first use his/her available energy to keep its internal entropy in check. Only then he/she can engage with the external world in pursuit of success and happiness.

Solved Example for You

Question: How is thermodynamics applied to the biological system?

Answer: The best example is the generation of ATP. Energy stored in the bonds of ATP drives the synthesis of glucose-6-phosphate. The compounds such as acyl phosphate, enol phosphate, etc. also have a high phosphate group transfer potential.

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