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Homework Help: Linear Potential and Thermal Equilibrium

  1. Jan 22, 2012 #1
    "Linear" Potential and Thermal Equilibrium

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Consider a classical particle moving back and forth along the x-axis while restrained by a "Linear" potential V(x) = b|x|. If the particle is in thermal equilibrium with the environment at temperature T, calculate the mean value of the potential energy b|x|.

    2. Relevant equations

    Equipartition Theorem: Each term in the energy proportional to the square of a velocity or a coordinate contributes [itex]\frac{1}{2}[/itex]kT to the mean energy at thermal equilibrium.

    Where k is the Boltzmann Constant
    T is the Temperature in Kelvin

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Basically I'm just confused by the question. Maybe its the wording or I'm oversimplifying it.

    If I used the Equipartition Theorem for the mean potential energy in the system the answer would just be [itex]\frac{1}{2}[/itex]kT right? Seeing as the system only has 1 "degree of freedom." Obviously I'm missing the point of the equation given in the problem. V(x) = b|x|. Or how to manipulate it in order to get a logical conclusion rather then just stating the answer.
  2. jcsd
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