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Applying the Second Law: Instructor's Guide

Main Ideas

  • Entropy
  • Reversible and irreversible processes

Students' Task

Estimated Time: 20 minutes with wrap-up

Students must determine if various processes are either reversible, irreversible, or impossible.

Prerequisite Knowledge

  • Familiarity with the first and second thermodynamic laws
  • Familiarity with what defines a process as reversible or irreversible


Activity: Introduction

Before conducting this activity, a short lecture defining reversible and irreversible processes is beneficial if the difference in these processes has not yet been covered. Students are then placed into small groups and given the Applying the Second Law handout.

Activity: Student Conversations

Activity: Wrap-up

The groups can be called back together as a class, discuss the choices made by each group, and resolve any incorrect reasoning for each scenario. This is also a good opportunity to ask what is defined as the system and what is defined as the surrounding for each scenario.


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