The concept of thermodynamics might have its roots in the annals of physics, but its significant applications transcend laboratories and industry.
It weaves an intricate tapestry of heat and temperature, relating them with work and energy.
Why does thermodynamics matter?
Thermodynamics deals with the transfer of energy from one place to another and from one form to another.
Heat–a form of energy–means a defined amount of mechanical work.
A thermodynamic system is one that interacts and exchanges energy with its surroundings.
These exchange and transfer occur in a minimum of two ways.
One is the transfer of heat.
One idea common to thermodynamic systems is that of equilibrium.
A thermodynamic system in equilibrium cannot change its state without interacting with its environment.
Thus, equilibrium happens when a system is in isolation–it simply exists by itself.
For it to change, it needs to interact with the world around it.
Laws of thermodynamics
Thermodynamics is governed by laws, as many areas of science.
Below is a relatable paraphrase of the most important laws present in any thermodynamic system:
The zeroth law of thermodynamics
Zeroth implies it comes before the first.
This law was unravelled only after the other laws of thermodynamics were established.
Any two systems (say A and B) in thermal equilibrium with another system, C, are in thermal equilibrium with one another.
To be in equilibrium, they have the same thermal energy content.
If A and B are in equilibrium with C, then A is in equilibrium with B and vice versa.
Knowing this, we can apply thermometers as the third system and to define a temperature scale.
The first law of thermodynamics
The first law is actually simpler to grasp than the zeroth.
It tells us that on adding heat to a system, some of it stays in the system while some move away from the system.
The heat energy that moves away does not disappear.
It has an impact on the system around it.
The heat that stays back increases the internal energy of the system.
As a concrete illustration, imagine a cup of water drawn from a bucket.
It’s at room temperature (25⁰C).
Now, heat that water up.
The temperature and energy of the water increase.
But, the system also releases energy and works on the environment.
The result? The surrounding air gets hotter.
The collective heat energy of the air and water after heating equals the amount of heat energy added to raise the temperature of the water.
The first law is also called the law of conservation of energy.
To conserve is to retain shape or keep intact.
More formally, the difference between the heat added to the system and the work done by the system on its surroundings, matches any change in a system’s internal energy.
The second law of thermodynamics
It is not possible to have a repeating process that transforms heat one-hundred percent to work.
A process that transfers heat between objects without work is impossible too.
This means no system is 100% efficient.
Some of the energy is eventually lost as heat.
Thus, the entropy (heat energy per unit temperature or randomness) steadily increases towards a maximum value.
This makes all closed systems approach equilibrium where entropy is maximum and no energy is available to do useful work.
The third law of thermodynamics
In its most stable form, an element’s entropy approaches zero as the temperature nears absolute zero (-273.15⁰C).
This enables a reliable measure of the degree of randomness or disorder in a system.
These laws direct the behaviours of heat, temperature, work, and energy within any system.
This is regardless of the constitution or specific properties of the material or system in question.
Who’s who in thermodynamics?
The defining work of French military scientist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot to bolster the efficiency of early steam engines was to aid the French during the Napoleonic Wars.
A formal definition of thermodynamics–presented to 1854–is due to Scottish-Irish scientist William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), whose extensive work gave thermodynamics a defining place in the industry.
Applications of thermodynamics
To apply thermodynamics, the first step is to define a system separate from its surroundings.
The system can be anything–a refrigeration system, a marathoner, a steam engine, or our believed planet.
These systems have the freedom to exchange heat, work, and other energy forms with their environment.
Each individual system’s condition per time is its thermodynamic state.
Thermodynamics have wide application in temperature-controlled vehicles sold by Glacier Vehicles used in the transport and logistics industry.
These refrigeration vehicles provide temperature minimums between sub-zero (ultra-freezing) and +25⁰C (room temperature), meeting the requirements for cold chain and ambient temperature shipments.
They are employed to retain the quality and integrity of medicinal products, food items, confectioneries, plants and flowers, and meat products.
Temperature-controlled vehicles create a climate within the vehicle to suit the items being conveyed.
They are generously fitted with robust thermal insulation to keep the heat out.
If your company falls into any of the following categories, you can get in touch with Glacier Vehicles on 0208 668 7579 today to schedule a tour or get a free quote:
Temperature-controlled vehicles are of immense benefit to florist businesses.
The flowers must be at the perfect temperature to keep their freshness, fragrance, and prevent wilting.
With regular daily meat deliveries, restaurants and food vendors need their supplies to be reliably fresh.
There are stringent rules and regulations on the delivery of food fit for human consumption.
Meats are to be kept at temperatures that support acceptable conditions of hygiene.
The proliferation of harmful microbes and contaminants can be stalled by delivering meat inventory in a refrigerator environment.
Meal programme coordinators
They deliver fresh meals to multiple locations.
As a meals programme coordinator, you want to be sure the food stays preserved.
Frozen beverages and treats
A temperature-controlled van is used to preserve frozen beverages and edibles.
Again, be aware of regulations, especially with particular food groups like dairy.
If you provide catering services on any level, depending on the scope of your operations, you will want a temperature-controlled truck of some sort.
Food has to be delivered warm or cold and freshness is key.