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Polytropic process A polytropic process is a thermodynamic process that obeys the relation: PVn = C, where P is the pressure, V is volume,

n is any real number (the polytropic index), and C is a constant. This equation can be used to accurately characterize processes of certain systems, notably the compression or expansion of a gas, but in some cases, possibly liquids and solids. Under standard conditions, most gases can be accurately characterized by the ideal gas law. This construct allows for the pressure-volume relationship to be defined for essentially all ideal thermodynamic cycles, such as the well-known Carnot cycle. (Note however that there may be instances where a polytropic process occurs in a non-ideal gas.) For certain indices n, the process will be synonymous with other processes:

if n = 0, then PV0=P=const and it is an isobaric process (constant pressure) if n = 1, then for an ideal gas PV=NkT=const and it is an isothermal process (constant temperature) if n = = cp/cV, then for an ideal gas it is an adiabatic process (no heat transferred)

Note that

, since , then it is an isochoric process (constant volume)

(see: adiabatic index)

if n =

When the index n occurs between any two of the former values (0,1,gamma, or infinity), it means that the polytropic curve will lie between the curves of the two corresponding indices. The equation is a valid characterization of a thermodynamic process assuming that:

The process is quasistatic The values of the heat capacities,cp and cV, are almost constant when 'n' is not zero or infinity. (In reality, cp and cV are a function of temperature, but are nearly linear within small changes of temperature).

Polytropic fluids Polytropic fluids are idealized fluid models that are used often in astrophysics. A polytropic fluid is a type of barotropic fluid for which the equation of state is written as: P = K(1 + 1 / n) where P is the pressure, K is a constant, is the density, and n is a quantity called the polytropic index.

This is also commonly written in the form: P = K where in this case, = (1 + 1 / n) (Note that need not be the adiabatic index (the ratio of specific heats), and in fact often it is not. This is sometimes a cause for confusion.) Gamma In the case of an isentropic ideal gas, is the ratio of specific heats, known as the adiabatic index. An isothermal ideal gas is also a polytropic gas. Here, the polytropic index is equal to one, and differs from the adiabatic index . In order to discriminate between the two gammas, the polytropic gamma is sometimes capitalized, . To confuse matters further, some authors refer to as the polytropic index, rather than n. Note that