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Topics in Thermodynamics

  1. Jul 14, 2011 #1

    I'm taking Thermodynamics I in the Fall, and I was wondering what topics are typically covered in the first semester of Thermo. The course description is very vague (it says the course covers "energy and energy transformations, the first two laws, thermo properties, and energy availability"). I was hoping you guys could give me some insight on what's covered in a first-semester/intro to thermo course.

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  3. Jul 14, 2011 #2


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  4. Jul 14, 2011 #3
    Well, that's actually a good description of what you would take in a beginning thermodynamics class. You cover what types of energy there are (internal, nuclear, chemical, etc.), different types of work (boundary, shaft, electrical, etc.), energy balance (i.e. dE/dt = ...) and the first law, the second law and entropy and solving problems with entropy, thermodynamic cycles and maybe a few other things. It's been a while since my beginning thermodynamics class, but that's what I remember.
  5. Jul 15, 2011 #4
    You are going to spend a good deal of time using linear interpolation to find the values you need from various tables. You probably won't spend much time on entropy until the very end of the semester. The equation you will be using most is the first law of thermo, otherwise known as conservation of energy.
  6. Jul 15, 2011 #5
    Skrambles is right. Linear interpolation is key. However, I do disagree with the statement about entropy. We covered it about halfway into our semester and used it from then on. I guess it depends on the school and the teacher.
  7. Jul 15, 2011 #6
    So, I take it that, up until about half-way through the semester, the content that's covered isn't too advanced? Or, I guess, I shouldn't worry about having to "prepare" myself for what we'll cover? It's easy stuff to understand?
  8. Jul 15, 2011 #7
    It's not too bad. It'll be a bit more advanced than a "principles" course, but in my experience it was a good bridge from a basic to a working knowledge.
  9. Jul 15, 2011 #8
    I suppose it depends on whether the course is broken into two semesters or crammed into only one. The course I took was broken into two semesters, and the second semester dealt a lot more with entropy and power cycles than the first.

    If you want to get a head start I would suggest just making sure you understand the concept of work and energy very well. A lot of people in my class got confused on problems involving open systems, so that may be another thing to study up on.
  10. Jul 15, 2011 #9


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    depends on the teacher, really.

    In my case, we started out with math: it's the only physics class where we are exposed to probability and statistics, so we start with the binomial distribution.

    Eventually, we work our way up to the canonical equations, the non-ideal gas laws, differential equations with boundary conditions, lots of derivations with all kinds of partial derivatives and natural log functions.

    Then finally we get into distinguishable vs. indistinguishable particles, brushing against quantum mechanics here and there.
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