vub wapenschild

Thermodynamics

van der waals 1910 - lecture_page_01.jpg

Thermodynamics deals with macroscopic properties of systems and lies at the foundations of the description of any process involving energy or energy conversion, e.g., a motor turning chemical energy into heat and heat into mechanical work. This course starts with the first, second, and third law of thermodynamics, introducing the thermodynamic potentials and properties, like mechanical work, heat, internal energy, enthalpy, heat capacity, entropy, and Gibbs or Helmholtz free energy, and the relations between these thermodynamic potentials, which describe the state of systems. These foundations are subsequently used to build-up the description of the behaviour of gases, liquids, and solids, both for pure components and for mixtures, and applied to real-life problems.
At first, only physical processes are considered, like the expansion or compression of gases in a cylinder, which culminates in the Carnot cycle, the prototype of the heat engine. This cycle is used to discuss how the efficiency of a heat engine can be increased. Next, chemical reactions are introduced into the thermodynamic equations, focussing on their thermochemistry and equilibrium, and on how these equilibra can be affected by changing process parameters like temperature, pressure, and composition.
In the following chapter, the course switches the focus (back) to phase diagrams and their desciption, considering the behaviour of pure components and mixtures, and their application in industrial separation processes like distillation and the melting point depression in solutions. The latter can be used to quantify the presence of small impurities in drugs. To describe bubble or droplet formation from a thermodynamic view point, the surface energy of the interfaces present between phases is introduced into the thermodynamic description. The final section on electrochemistry introduces electrical charges and potentials into the thermodynamic equations, which are subsequently applied for describing electrochemical systems like batteries and fuel cells.
In the lab session, you will get a hands-on experience with studying the properties and behaviour of materials and processes.

After having tackled this course, you are ready to move on to the study of real-life applications where thermodynamics plays a crucial role, like combustion engines and turbines; heating, cooling and air-conditioning systems; chemical reaction kinetics and reaction engineering; the description of biochemical processes; or basically, of most of what happens around you.