In this article at OpenGenus, we have explained applications of Thermodynamics in our day to day lives.
Table of contents
- What is thermodynamics?
- Branches of thermodynamics and its applications
- Applications of thermodynamics in day to day life
What is thermodynamics?
- Thermodynamics is a branch of science, more specifically branch of physics that deals with the relation between heat, temperature,work and energy.
- There are various laws of thermodynamics which explain the behavior of energy in different systems like solid, liquid and gas.
Branches of thermodynamics and its applications
- Classical Thermodynamics -
- Concerned with how heat, work and energy can be exchanged between a system and its surroundings.
- Refrigeration and air conditioning- Uses the concept of transfer of heat(explained in classical thermodynamics) to provide heating or cooling.
- Power generation-Various power plants use heat engines to convert thermal energy into electrical energy.
- Environmental science- Classical thermodynamics provides for framework for the study of exchange of energy that happens in nature and can also be used to predict their behaviour under different circumstances.
- Statistical Thermodynamics
- Deals with the study of systems at microscopic level. It also paves a way to understand behaviour of macroscopic systems based on the behaviour of its atoms and molecules(i.e. microscopic particles).
- Biological systems- used to study the mechanism of biological systems like enzymes and proteins which can help to produce new drugs and therapies.
- Nanotechnology- used to study the behavior of particles at nanoscale and can be used to develop new technologies.
- Atmospheric science- used to study the gases in the atmosphere and can be used to determine the effect of human activities on the environment and the climate.
- Material science- used to study the behavior of particles at different conditions such as high temperature and pressure.
- Chemical Thermodynamics
- Deals with the exchange of energy and matter with its surroundings during chemical reactions. It has many applications in science and engineering.
- Reaction kinetics- used to determine the rate and direction of chemical reactions based on the change in energy that occurs during the reaction. This knowledge can be used to find out new technologies regarding how chemical reactions can be made faster(develop new catalysts) and more efficient.
- Study of equilibrium- used to study equilibrium states(rate of forward reaction is equal to the rate of backward reaction) of chemical reactions/procresses.
- Equilibrium Thermodynamics
- Deals with systems which are in thermodynamic equilibrium in which there is no net transfer of matter and energy between its systems and surroundings.
- Phase changes- used to understand the behavior of materials when there is a change in phase such as from solid to liquid(melting) or liquid to gas(vapourisation).
- Chemical reactions-used to study equilibrium states(rate of forward reaction is equal to the rate of backward reaction) of chemical reactions/processes.
- Astrophysics- Stars and galaxies are made up of gases, so equilibrium thermodynamics is used to study stars and galaxies through which the origin of universe can be understood.
Applications of thermodynamics in day to day life
- Heating and cooling systems-
- According to law of thermodynamics, heat flows from a hot body to a cold body. Similarly in a heating system, heat is transfered from a warm source to a cooler place and in cooling system, heat is transfered from cooler to warmer environment just like in refrigerator.
Cooking involves many aspects of thermodynamics and understanding these aspects can make a person a better cook.
- Transfer of heat- Heat is tranfered from a heat source(like induction) to the food that is being cooked by conduction, convection or radiation.
- Temperature- Increasing temperature, increases the kinetic energy of particles. In cooking, it is essential to know at what temperature particular ingredients has to be cooked at to get the desired results.
- Heat capacity: Heat capacity is the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of a substance by one degree. In cooking, different ingredients and cooking equipment have different heat capacities which determines how quickly they heat up or cool down.
- Change in phase- Many food ingredients undergo phase change during cooking.
- Entropy: Entropy is a measure of the randomness of the particles in a system. In cooking, increasing the entropy of a system helps to speed up chemical reactions and cooking processes.
- Power generation-
Power plants uses principles of thermodynamics to generate electricity.
- Thermal power plants use the heat energy generated from burning fossil fuels or nuclear reactions to convert it into mechanical energy(steam), which drives turbines to generate electricity.
- Clothing and insulation-
- Good insulating materials like wool, down feathers, and synthetic materials like polyester and nylon trap air and prevent heat from escaping which helps to keep the body warm in cold environments.
- Clothes with darker colors and rough textures tend to absorb more radiation and conduct more heat away from the body.
- Clothes with lighter colors and smooth textures reflect radiation and retain more heat.
- Solar energy-
- Solar photovoltaic systems convert solar energy into electricity using the photovoltaic effect(generation of electric current when a material is exposed to light).The efficiency of solar thermal systems depends on the temperature of the solar collector.
Thermodynamics plays a crucial role in our day to day lives.By applying the principles of thermodynamics,we cab understand energy usage and sustainability, more efficient technologies can be designed and impact on the environment can be minimized.