Module Identifier PX31510  
Module Title THERMAL PHYSICS 1  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Dr Rudolf Winter  
Semester Semester 1  
Other staff Dr Andrew R Breen  
Pre-Requisite Core Physics Modules at Level 1  
Course delivery Lecture   20 lectures  
  Seminars / Tutorials   2 seminars/workshops/exercise classes; 2 tutorials  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours End of semester examinations  70%
Semester Assessment Course Work: Example Sheets Example Sheets 1,2,4,5,6 and 8 Deadlines are detailed in the Year 2 Example Sheets Schedule distributed by the Department30%

Learning outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:

Brief description

Thermal Physics deals with material properties and processes related to the conversion of heat and work and vice versa. Thermal processes can be understood at the atomic as well as the macroscopic level, and both approaches are introduced here. The laws of thermodynamics have been derived from empirical observations of gases, but they are applicable universally. The concepts of heat, work, reversibility, entropy and the steady state are central to many other areas of physics. Thermal Physics can explain the workings of heat engines, refrigerators and power stations by balancing the heat and work exchanged in each step of their operation cycle. On the atomic level, pressure can be understood as the summed impact of the collisions of gas molecules on the container walls. This is the idea of the kinetic theory, which leads to the thermal distribution of velocities and more generally to the population of energy levels. Many processes are irreversible, showing that an energy balance is not sufficient to predict the direction of a process. Entropy is introduced to take into account the dissipative nature of irreversible processes and to quantify the influence of disorder on the probability of a process.


- Boyle-Mariotte et al.
- state variables, equations of state
- ideal gas law, R
- van der Waals
- critical point

- derivation of pressure from mechanical reasoning
- Maxwell-Boltzmann, rms-mean-probable speed
- temperature and population of energy levels

- thermal equilibrium
- temperature and temperature scales
- thermal expansion

- heat, work, internal energy
- isothermal, isobaric, and adiabatic processes
- heat capacity, latent heat

- all these funny engines and stuff
- Kelvin-Planck, Clausius statements
- reversible and irreversible processes, efficiency
- Carnot cycle and theorem
- thermodynamic temperature scale

- direction of processes, order, disorder
- entropy and irreversible heat transfer
- thermodynamic probability

- diffusion, heat conduction (mechanical)
- diffusion, heat conduction (microscopic)

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
F.J. Keller, W.E. Gettys and M.J. Stove Physics Classical and Modern (Chapters 16, 17 and 19) McGraw Hill ISBN 0-07-112674-0
P.W. Atkins Physical Chemistry Oxford Press ISBN 0-19-855284-X
C.B.P. Finn Thermal Physics Nelson-Thornes (previously published with Routledge)


This module is at CQFW Level 6