Title

Why Do Two Objects at Different Temperatures Come to a Common Intermediate Temperature When Put in Contact? Entropy Is Maximized

Abstract

A classic problem in thermodynamics is to place two objects with different heat capacities and different temperatures in thermal contact and ask what is the final common temperature. Normally, this temperature is found using the first law of thermodynamics. A single, intermediate final temperature is an assumption (from experience) that is not required by the first law. Why is the final temperature of the two objects at equilibrium the same? It is shown that this outcome is a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics subject to the constraint of energy conservation (the first law). That is, the overall entropy of the universe is maximized when the two objects reach a common temperature. The analysis is extended to the case of two different samples of ideal gas at different pressures as well as different temperatures placed in mechanical (for example, by placing a moveable piston between the gases) and thermal contact. In this case, it is shown that the two gases at equilibrium reach a common temperature as well as a common pressure.

Publisher

American Chemical Society

Publication Date

1-1-2006

Publication Title

Journal of Chemical Education

Department

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1021/ed083p885

Keywords

Calorimetry, Thermochemistry

Language

English

Format

text

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