Energy & Entropy

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The Energy and Entropy Paradigm introduces both classical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, with an information theory emphasis. This course is designed to follow the interlude course that presents a series of mathematical techniques necessary to solve numerous thermodynamics problems including work with partial derivatives, total differentials, exact and inexact differentials, and the cyclic chain rule. In the beginning of the course, students will be introduced to the terminology necessary to understand thermodynamic processes. The course will then present the first and second thermodynamic laws. Utilizing the techniques learned in the interlude, students will use the first thermodynamic law, in conjunction with Legendre Transforms, to derive Maxwell's relations. Throughout Energy and Entropy, the class will frequently be placed in small groups and asked to physically present how thermodynamic partial derivatives could be measured (see name the experiment). These activities collaborate with the integrated laboratory exercises to present thermodynamics with a physically observable approach. After working with classical thermodynamics, the course provides an introduction to statistical mechanics, exposing students to the concepts of maximum fairness and the probability of microstates. The course concludes with a culmination of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in a calculation of the total internal energy of a diatomic gas.

Course Goals

  • For students to understand (be able to apply and interpret) the concepts of heat and temperature
  • For students to understand (be able to apply and interpret) the concepts of work and internal energy
  • For students to understand (be able to apply) the concepts of heat, temperature, work, and internal energy to the concept of an engine
  • For students to understand (be able to apply and interpret) the First, Second, and Third Thermodynamic Laws
  • For students to understand (be able to apply and interpret) black body thermodynamics
  • For students to understand (be able to use and interpret) statistical mechanics

An Introduction to Thermal Physics - Daniel V. Schroeder

Alternative text:

Thermal Physics Concepts and Practice - Allen Wassermann

Sample Syllabus

Course Content

Unit: First & Second Laws of Thermodynamics

Heat and Temperature (40 minutes)

Introducing the First & Second Thermodynamic Laws (2 hours 55 minutes)

Heat and Work (3 hours 40 minutes)

Unit: Internal Energy

Maxwell Relations (1 hour 35 minutes)

Rubber Band Lab ()

Simple Cycles & Analyzing Thermodynamic Processes ()

Black Body Thermodynamics (30 minutes)

Unit: Statistical Mechanics

The Statistical Approach ()

Optimizing the Fairness ()

Moving from Statistics to Thermodynamics ()

Internal Energy of a Diatomic Gas (2 hours 10 minutes)

The Third Thermodynamic Law (20 minutes)

Activities Included

Personal Tools