The word thermodynamics stems from the Greek words therme (heat) and dynamis (Power). Although various aspects of what is now known as thermodynamics have been of interest since antiquity, the formal study of thermodynamics began in the early nineteenth century through consideration of the motive power of heat: the capacity of hot bodies to produce work. Today the scope is larger, dealing generally with energy and with relationships among the properties of matter. The objective of this chapter is to introduce you to some of the fundamental concepts and definitions that are used in our study of engineering thermodynamics.
History of Thermodynamics
Historically, thermodynamics developed out of a desire to increase the efficiency and power output of early steam engines, particularly through the work of French physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot (1824) who believed that the efficiency of heat engines was the key that could help France win the Napoleonic Wars. Irish-born British physicist Lord Kelvin was the first to formulate a concise definition of thermodynamics in 1854: "Thermo-dynamics is the subject of the relation of heat to forces acting between contiguous parts of bodies, and the relation of heat to electrical agency."
Microscopic and Macroscopic Approach
Systems can be studied from a macroscopic or a microscopic point of view. The macroscopic approach to thermodynamics is concerned with the gross or overall behavior. This is sometimes called classical thermodynamics. No model of the structure of matter at the molecular, atomic, and subatomic levels is directly used in classical thermodynamics. Although the behavior of systems is affected by molecular structure, classical thermodynamics allows important aspects of system behavior to be evaluated from observations of the overall system.
The microscopic approach to thermodynamics, known as statistical thermodynamics, is concerned directly with the structure of matter. The objective of statistical thermodynamics is to characterize by statistical means the average behavior of the particles making up a system of interest and relate this information to the observed macroscopic behavior of the system.
The term system is used to identify the subject of the analysis. Once the system is defined and the relevant interactions with other systems are identified, one or more physical laws or relations are applied. The system is whatever we want to study. It may be as simple as a free body or as complex as an entire chemical refinery. Everything external to the system is considered to be part of the system’s surroundings. The system is distinguished from its surroundings by a specified boundary, which may be at rest or in motion. You will see that the interactions between a system and its surroundings, which take place across the boundary, play an important part in engineering thermodynamics.
Types of System
A closed system is defined when a particular quantity of matter is under study. A closed system always contains the same matter. There can be no transfer of mass across its boundary.
A special type of closed system that does not interact in any way with its surroundings is called an isolated system.
Thermodynamic analyses are made of devices such as turbines and pumps through which mass flows. These analyses can be conducted in principle by studying a particular quantity of matter, a closed system, as it passes through the device. In most cases it is simpler to think instead in terms of a given region of space through which mass flows. With this approach, a region within a prescribed boundary is studied. The region is called a control volume. The respective system is known as open system.