Engine Thermodynamics

Heat Engines

Pressure-Volume (PV) diagrams are a primary visualization tool for the study of . Since the engines usually involve a gas as a working substance, the ideal gas law relates the PV diagram to the temperature so that the three essential state variables for the gas can be tracked through the engine cycle. Since work is done only when the volume of the gas changes, the diagram gives a visual interpretation of work done. Since the internal energy of an ideal gas depends upon its temperature, the PV diagram along with the temperatures calculated from the ideal gas law determine the changes in the internal energy of the gas so that the amount of heat added can be evaluated from the first law of thermodynamics. In summary, the PV diagram provides the framework for the analysis of any heat engine which uses a gas as a working substance.

For a cyclic heat engine process, the PV diagram will be closed loop. The area inside the loop is a representation of the amount of work done during a cycle. Some idea of the relative efficiency of an engine cycle can be obtained by comparing its PV diagram with that of a Carnot cycle, the most efficient kind of heat engine cycle.

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