Thermal Physics

A study of processes that involve energy and entropy. 

This is a level 2 core course for Physics Majors that introduces the students to a statistical way of thinking about many particle systems. Prerequisites for this course are Mechanics PHY 102 and Electromagnetism PHY201. The subject though traditionally thought of as heat’ includes the study of processes which involve both energy and entropy (i.e. randomness). Applications go beyond physics into chemistry and biology and the energy and chemical industries.

The course attempts to combine both a molecular level understanding of macroscopic systems and the traditional thermodynamics that provides a framework for relating the macroscopic properties of a system to one another. After introducing the concepts of heat, temperature, pressure, work and energy, a molecular approach is used to describe ideal gasses through kinetic theory. 

A simplified description of Maxwell Boltzmann distribution and equipartition of energy is followed by a molecular model of transport properties in gasses such as viscosity, thermal conductivity and diffusion. A molecular description of entropy of an ideal gas, Gibbs paradox, Brownian motion and Langevin’s theory are other topics that are briefly introduced. 

The latter half of the course deals with laws of thermodynamics, its application to heat engines, Carnot cycle, Clausius inequality, the entropy of an ideal gas, concept of minimization of free energy and few examples of its application in real world systems. The labs that will be held in parallel with the lectures help to quantify some of the abstract concepts. 

Verification of gas laws, specific heat capacities of an ideal gas, measuring diffusion constant, microscopic observation of Brownian motion and determining Boltzmann constant, constructing a heat engine, reverse osmosis through artificial membranes are some of the experiments that will be done by the students.