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Temperature of an atom

  1. Feb 24, 2007 #1
    for a monatomic gas the temperature can be described as the sum of kinetic energy of the individual atoms. but what i wonder is can an atom have it's own temperature, defined as the sum of the kinetic energy of the sub atomic particles which make it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2007 #2
    Good question. You could possibly define an analogous quantity if you wanted; but as far as I'm aware, temperature by definition is a property of bulk particles on the macroscale.
  4. Feb 25, 2007 #3
    Temperature is a state variable, and it comes from statistical mechanics. As such, the temperature of an individual atom cannot be defined. If I'm not mistaken, the failure to define temperature at the atomic scale actually has to do with why the equipartition theorem fails at the atomic level.
  5. Feb 25, 2007 #4

    Andrew Mason

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    The problem is that the energies of the nucleons in the nucleus and of the electrons around the nucleus, are subject to quantum mechanical laws. They have discrete energies rather than random energies. It is not analagous to a large collection of molecules moving randomly with a continuous energy spectrum over a broad range.

  6. Feb 26, 2007 #5
    i see, sounds like the details are above my head for the moment. thanks for the replies
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