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Using $pV$ and $TS$ Plots

Keywords: Work, First Law, Energy and Entropy, Graphical Representation, Small Group Activity


Highlights of the activity

  1. This small group activity is designed to help students learn to read $pV$ and $TS$ plots and to understand simple cyclic processes.
  2. Students work out the heat and work for each leg of a cycle, as well as the totals for the cycle.
  3. The wrap-up discussion highlights student difficulties with the sign of heat and work, and reinforces the concept of heat and work being path-independent.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity

Students oftentimes find it difficult to relate the mathematical representations in thermodynamics to physical representations describing the same process. This exercise offers students the opportunity to take the physical representation of a thermodynamic process and use this information to find the problem's solution mathematically. Having the ability to analyze a problem in one representation and solve it in another is a pivotal technique on the way to becoming a professional physicist.


Instructor's Guide

Student Handouts



Authors: Corinne Manogue
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