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Section 103/107

1 Thermal equilibrium

1.1 Discussion

1. What does it mean for two systems to be in thermal equilibrium?

2. What is the physical (microscopic) interpretation of temperature? Correspondingly, what is

happening on the microscopic level when two systems are thermally equilibrating/in equilib-

rium?

2 Thermal expansion

2.1 Discussion

1. Consider an annulus with a positive radial expansion coefficient. How do the inner and outer

radii change on increasing the temperature? Explain.

2. Metal usually has a larger coefficient of linear expansion than glass. Why does it help to run

a glass jar with a metal lid under hot water when trying to open it?

2.2 Problems

1. You have a rectangular prism that has a length `, a height h, and a width w: first, suppose

that the thermal expansion of the prism is isotropic (equal in all directions). It has a linear

expansion coefficient α.

(a) What is the volume expansion coefficient of the prism for a small temperature change?

(b) How does it relate to the linear expansion coefficient?

Now suppose that the thermal expansion of this prism is anisotropic: its length expands

with linear expansion coefficient αL , and its other dimensions expand with linear expansion

coefficient αhw . What is the volume expansion coefficient of the prism for a small temperature

change?

2. You have a metal sphere with linear expansion coefficient α = 2 · 10−6 K−1 . How much do

you need to increase the temperature to increase the volume of the sphere by 1%?

3. A hollow sphere of radius R = 0.5 m contains an ideal gas at temperature T = 20 ◦ C. By

how much should we increase the radius of the sphere if we want to increase the temperature

by 10 ◦ C, assuming the pressure stays constant?

4. Suppose you have a ring of metal with α1 = 2 · 10−6 K−1 . You want to put it around a pipe

made of a metal with α2 = 3 · 10−6 . If at 298 K, the inner radius of the ring is 10 cm and the

outer radius of the pipe is 10.001 cm, what is the temperature that will allow you to slip the

ring around the pipe?

1

5. At a given latitude, ocean water in the so-called mixed layer (from the surface to a depth of

about 50 m) is at approximately the same temperature due to the mixing action of waves.

Assume that because of climate change, the temperature of the mixed layer is everywhere

increased by 0.5 ◦ C, while the temperature of the deeper portions of the oceans is unchanged.

Estimate the resulting rise in sea level. The ocean covers about 70% of the Earths surface,

the radius of the Earth is approximately 6400 km, and the volume expansion coefficient of

water is βW = 2.10 · 10−5 K−1 .

6. Suppose we have a disk of mass m, initial radius R0 , and linear expansion coefficient α. It

is spinning at angular velocity ω. Moreover, there is a motor that maintains the angular

velocity at ω. Now suppose that the temperature of the disk is raised linearly from T1 to

T2 over a time t, and T2 − T1 1/α. Estimate the torque required by the motor to keep it

spinning at ω. You may find it useful to recall that the moment of inertia of a disk of mass

m and radius r about its azimuthal (normal) axis is I = 12 mr2 . (Bonus: compute the work

the motor does to maintain ω during the change.)

3.1 Discussion

1. An ideal gas confined to a box exerts pressure on the walls of the box. What is the microscopic

origin of this pressure?

3. If you cause an ideal gas to contract, does the temperature go up or down? Explain.

3.2 Problems

1. An ideal gas is contained in a box under a pressure P and temperature T . The container is

then brought to the top of a mountain, where the pressure doubles and the temperature is

halved. What happens to the density of the gas particles?

2. A box of length 1 meter and cross-sectional area A has a moveable partition inside it. There

is some gas on either side of the partition. The number of particles on the left is N1 = 3 · 1023 ,

while the number of particles on the right is N2 = 2 · 1023 . The gas on both sides are in

thermal equilibrium at temperature T . Find the lengths L1 and L2 of each partition of the

box after the partition has settled (this is called mechanical equilibrium).

originally clamped in a position 30 cm from the left end. The left compartment is filled with

1 mole of helium gas at a pressure of 5 atm; the right compartment is filled with argon gas

at 1 atm of pressure. These gases may be considered ideal. The cylinder is submerged in one

gallon of water, and the entire system is initially at the uniform temperature of 25 ◦ C. When

the piston is unclamped, it slides to a new position. How far from the left end of the cylinder

will the piston come to rest?

bottom of a cold lake, where the temperature is T 0 and the balloon contracts to V 0 . Assuming

that the density of the water ρ remains constant, how deep is the lake?

2

5. A fun example of how gases will contract according to temperature is to put an inflated

balloon into the freezer. Suppose the temperature inside your house is 25 ◦ C when you blow

up the balloon, and the freezer is at -10 ◦ C.

(a) By what fraction will the volume of the balloon change? You may assume that the

pressure is constant.

(b) Sketch what the process looks like in the P V -plane.

6. A canister with thin metal walls is immersed in water with temperature T . Initially, the

canister holds air at atmospheric pressure. The lid of the canister is a piston, which you use

to compress the air until it occupies half the original volume.

(a) Assuming that the water maintains the air at fixed temperature T , what is the final air

pressure in the canister?

(b) Sketch what the process looks like in the P V -plane

7. Suppose you have a box of volume V with a partition through the center, dividing the box

into two sections of volume V /2. The left side is filled with an ideal gas at pressure P , while

the right side is evacuated to vacuum (P = 0). Now suppose the partition is slowly moved to

the right, so that the ideal gas fills out a volume V .

(b) What is going on microscopically?

4.1 Discussion

1. A good friend asks you to take care of their two samples of a monatomic ideal gas. You notice

that they are identical in every respect, except that sample A is at temperature TA = 100 K,

while sample B is at temperature TB = 400 K. Being a curious individual, you take out your

shrink ray and shrink down to microscopic size.

(a) What difference would you observe of the particles in each sample?

(b) How can you connect this to the total energies of the samples?

2. Because you took such good care of their samples the first time, your friend asks you to look

after two other samples of ideal gases. These samples are identical in every respect, except

that the particles of sample A are twice as large as those of sample B.

(b) On average, how does the speed of the particles in sample A differ from that of sample

B? If faster or slower, by what factor?

3. Through your caretaking, you have developed a healthy interest in ideal gases. You start

your own collection with two boxes of ideal gases at volume V , which are identical in every

respect. Now suppose that you submerge them in a large tank of water at temperature T ,

then you forcibly expand box A to 2V and contract box B to V /2.

3

(a) On average, how does the speed of the particles in sample A differ from that of sample

B? If faster or slower, by what factor?

(b) Generically, what is true about the energy of ideal gases that undergo isothermal expan-

sions/contractions?

(c) Explain your answer to (b) from a microscopic perspective.

4.2 Problems

1. A gas of N = 5 · 1025 diatomic particles initially has a pressure P = 2 atm and a volume

V1 = 4 m3 . The gas contracts slowly at constant pressure (isobaric) until it has a volume

V2 = 2 m3 .

(b) What is the change in the internal energy of the gas for this process?

(c) (To think about) Where does that energy go?

2. A diatomic ideal gas with N particles has initial pressure P1 and initial volume V1 . It then

undergoes a series of transformations:

(i) A bunsen burner causes the gas to expand at constant pressure to volume 7V1

(ii) The volume is held constant while an ice bath lowers the pressure to P1 /4

(iii) A water bath allows the gas to be compressed along a straight line in the P V -plane to

return to their initial values

(b) Find the temperature at all corners of the diagram. Express all three temperatures in

terms of P1 , V1 , and N .

(c) Find the change in internal energy of the gas ∆Ei during transformation (i). Similarly,

find ∆Eii and ∆Eiii . Express all three answers in terms of P1 and V1 .

(d) Add up the three changes in internal energy. Is the result what you expect? Why?

5 Kinetic Theory

5.1 Discussion

1. Why do puddles evaporate, even if the temperature is much colder than the boiling point of

water? Why do sealed jars never evaporate?

3. Plot a typical Maxwell distribution for some choice of T and N . What would it look like if

you increased the temperature, keeping N constant? What if you increased N but kept T

constant?

4

5.2 Problems

You may find the following integrals useful:

Z ∞ √

2 −ax2 π

x e dx = 3/2 (5.1)

4a

Z0 ∞

2 1

x3 e−ax dx = 2 (5.2)

2a

Z 0∞ √

4 −ax2 3 π

x e dx = 5/2 (5.3)

0 8a

show that the equipartition theorem is consistent with the Maxwell distribution of speeds.

(a) On average, how many particles will have a speed between v and v + dv?

(b) Write down an expression for the average of a function of v, which we call g(v), in the

Maxwell distribution

(c) Verify that your formula is correct by finding the average of the function g(v) = 1. Does

your answer make sense?

(d) Find the average value of the kinetic energy of particles g(v) = 21 mv 2

(e) Does your answer to part (d) agree with what you would have expected from the equipar-

tition theorem?

2. Compute hvi, hv 2 i, and vp , where vp is the most probable velocity. Provide an interpretation

for these 3 values.

3. (Some practice with discrete statistics) You have 10 diatomic gas molecules in a box. At one

moment, 2 have a speed of 10 m/s, 4 have a speed of 12 m/s, 2 have a speed of 14 m/s, 1 has

a speed of 15 m/s, and 1 has a speed of 17 m/s. The gas molecules have a total mass m.

(b) What would the temperature be for this theoretical distribution?

(c) What would the total internal energy be if the ideal gas law and equipartition theory

held?

(d) Why would they probably not hold for this system?

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