Thermal Physics: Energy change due to compression

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Main Question or Discussion Point

This is not a homework problem but rather a passage from my textbook that I don't understand. I don't think I quite understand the concept of reversible processes. Here is the passage from my book:

"Consider a system in the quantum state s of energy Es. We assume Es to be a function of the volume of the system. The volume is decreased slowly by application of an external force. Let the volume change take place sufficiently slowly that the system remains in the same quantum state s throughout the compression...The mechanical work done on the system by the pressure in a contraction appears as the change of energy of the system."

My question is:
How is it possible that the system can remain in the same quantum state throughout the compression if the energy is changing? (I believe the system under consideration is in contact with a thermal reservoir). Is this a reversible process?

Thank you!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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What a strange book? What book is it?

Pressure and temperature are concepts that apply to the average behavior of large numbers of particles. Quantum mechanical analysis applies to only a few particles at a time.

I find it hard to imagine why it would be useful to try to blend quantum and thermodynamic views in the same description.
 
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It's thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Quantum is actually a pre-req.
 

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