Founders of Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is one of the branches of Physics that explains the relationship between different properties such as heat, pressure, volume, temperature, density, etc that are related to a substance.

Thermodynamics is all about the basic concepts that relate to the above-mentioned properties of the substance. These basic concepts are heat transfer which includes thermal equilibrium, thermal expansion, conduction, convection, radiation, and insulation, thermodynamic processes such as adiabatic process, isochoric process, isothermal process, and isobaric processes. All these processes are governed by thermodynamics laws.

These laws, processes, and explanations were stated by the number of scientists. However, in this article, we shall learn about these great personalities and their contributions to thermodynamics.

Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot

A French mechanical engineer, Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot is considered to be the “father of thermodynamics”. He explained the Carnot cycle which is related to the theory of heat engines. He proposed a theoretical thermodynamic cycle in the form of a Carnot cycle that gives an estimated efficiency of the heat engine when the heat is being converted into work.

The Carnot theorem states that any system working between temperatures T1 and T2 can never have an efficiency more than the Carnot engine working between the same reservoirs respectively. T1 is considered to be the hot reservoir while T2 is considered to be the cold reservoir.

Carnot cycle is defined as an ideal reversible closed thermodynamic cycle in which two expansion operations and two compressions take place. These operations are isothermal expansion and adiabatic expansion, isothermal compression, and adiabatic compression.

Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius

A German physicist and mathematician is considered to be one of the founders of thermodynamics. He explained the second law of thermodynamics and the concept of entropy.

Rudolf Clausius explained the kinetic theory of gases. He even used the concept of the kinetic theory of gases in two of his papers. These papers were “On the average length of the path which is traversed by single molecules in the molecular motion of gaseous bodies” and “On the kind of motion which we call warmth”. The average velocity of hydrogen molecule was calculated by Clausius at normal temperature and pressure by using the assumption that molecules travel in a straight path.

His second contribution was to the laws of thermodynamics. He stated the second law of thermodynamics, the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease, however can be constant when all the processes are reversible. The second law of thermodynamics is also known as the law of entropy.

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin

A Scottish engineer, mathematician, and physicist who is also known as Lord Kelvin was responsible for the formulation of the first law of thermodynamics. His other studies include mathematical analysis of electricity and developing the basis of absolute zero. This is the reason why his name is used in a unit of temperature measurement.

According to the first law of thermodynamics, the energy can neither be created nor be destroyed but can be transformed from one form to another. This is also known as the law of conservation of energy.

Absolute zero is defined as the lowest temperature that is possible. When a system is having an absolute zero temperature, there is no motion or no heat involved. When the temperature is 0 degrees Kelvin or -273.15 degrees Celsius 0r -460 degrees Fahrenheit, absolute zero occurs.

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