Integrated SequencePhysics Chemistry Organic Biology

Web Resources

The Open Door Web Site - The Efficiency of a Heat Engine
Excellent, straight-forward presentation of the central concepts of thermal efficiency.



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Special points of emphasis

Work, Energy, and Power

The Ideal Gas and Kinetic Theory

The First Law of Thermodynamics

The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Heat Engines

A thermodynamic cycle is a series of thermodynamic processes which returns a system to its initial state. When you are presented with an ideal gas undergoing a thermodynamic cycle, learn to interpret the changes step by step.

An MCAT question will sometimes become much easier just by shifting your analytical focus. As the system changes, the gas laws can help you conceptualize the cycle in terms of the macrostate functions (pressure, volume and temperature). Kinetic theory can help you extend the conception of thermodynamic change to changes at the particle level of the system (what does higher pressure or higher temperature look like at the molecular level?). The First Law of Thermodynamics tracks the movement of energy into and out of the system (is heat flowing in? is work being done? is the internal energy the same?)

As you begin the process of learning to follow the pathway around the thermodynamic cycle, make a habit of conceptualizing each transformation in these three respective ways: in terms of the gas laws, kinetic theory, and the 1st law of thermodynamics.








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