Thermodynamics Kept Simple - A Molecular Approach : What is the Driving Force in the World of Molecules? book cover
1st Edition

Thermodynamics Kept Simple - A Molecular Approach
What is the Driving Force in the World of Molecules?

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ISBN 9781482244106
Published August 25, 2015 by CRC Press
233 Pages 115 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Thermodynamics Kept Simple – A Molecular Approach: What is the Driving Force in the World of Molecules? offers a truly unique way of teaching and thinking about basic thermodynamics that helps students overcome common conceptual problems.

For example, the book explains the concept of entropy from the perspective of probabilities of various molecular processes. Temperature is then addressed and related to probabilities for heat transfer between different systems. This approach gives the second law of thermodynamics a natural and intuitive background.

The book delivers a concise and brilliantly conceived introduction to thermodynamics by focusing at the molecular level in a manner that is easy to follow and illustrated by engaging, concrete examples. By providing a guided tour of the world of molecules, the book gives insights into essential principles of thermodynamics with minimal use of mathematics. It takes as a unifying theme an application of simple but appropriate reasoning that leads to the correct mathematical relationships.

Many well-chosen examples are employed to clearly illustrate the core laws and to supply valuable insight into the molecular events underlying the thermodynamic macroscopic description, such as how spreading of energy and spreading of particles can sometimes oppose each other and at other times work together. Thereby, insight into the world experienced in everyday life also is gained.

The book covers key concepts such as entropy, energy transfer, heat exchange, work, enthalpy, free energy, irreversible and reversible processes, chemical equilibrium, and phase transitions. It provides an intuitive understanding of the distinction between microscopic and macroscopic states and shows how statistics play out in the molecular world.

Based on the author’s popular, classroom-proven Swedish textbook, this book presents the fundamentals of thermodynamics in a straightforward manner accessible to students at the first-year university level and beyond.

Table of Contents


To the reader

To teachers


Energy and entropy

In the world of molecules Movements, interactions and energy

Self-evident matters? Spreading and spontaneity

Particle locations Macroscopic and microscopic states

Two independent systems The concept of entropy

Gas diffusion Mixing gases

Dispersion of energy Energy distribution and entropy

Hotter and colder The concept of temperature; the second and third laws of thermodynamics

Availability of energy The Boltzmann factor

Entropy and free energy

Poorly soluble substance Particle positions and energy

Evaporation of a liquid drop Balance between entropy and energy; vapor pressure

Combustion of magnesium Exothermic reaction with loss of Sconf

Burning candle Exothermic reaction with gain in Sconf

It gets cold Endothermic reaction

Colloidal stability Repulsion driven by entropy

What is the driving force? Total entropy of the system and the surroundings

To indirectly keep track of the surroundings The concept of free energy

More on gases and the basics of thermodynamics

Bike pumps and fridges Gas compression, pressure and work

To work and to heat Definition of work and heat; the first law of thermodynamics

To work quickly or slowly Entropy during volume changes; reversible work and the second law

The gas follows the law The ideal gas law

To heat the kettle Heat capacity

The balance of two bank accounts The concept of enthalpy

Spontaneity for the most common circumstances The concept of Gibbs energy

Mixtures and reactions

Take from the bottle and mix Gas mixtures and standard states

Can they react? Chemical reactions and equilibria

Phases and temperature variations

To boil and to freeze Phase transitions

It depends on the temperature Temperature dependence of various quantities


What are the molecules doing?


Heat dispersion and temperature, an analogy

The Boltzmann distribution law

Collision with a piston in motion

Kinetic energy and pressure

Kinetic energy and entropy for monatomic gas



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Roland Kjellander acquired a master’s degree in chemical engineering, a Ph.D in physical chemistry, and the title of docent in physical chemistry from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He is currently a professor emeritus of physical chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. His previous appointments include roles in various academic and research capacities at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Australian National University, Canberra; Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA; and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. He was awarded the 2004 Pedagogical Prize from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the 2007 Norblad-Ekstrand Medal from the Swedish Chemical Society. Professor Kjellander's field of research is statistical mechanics, in particular liquid state theory.

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Author - Roland  Kjellander

Roland Kjellander

Professor emeritus, University of Gothenburg, Dept. of Chemistry and Molecular Biology

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"This book is a pleasure to read. Especially noteworthy is the considerable attention that has been devoted to the concept of entropy … neatly explained via very simple model systems."
—Jan Forsman, Professor, Lund University

"… an excellent complement to traditional thermodynamics textbooks. The author clearly explains concepts in chemical thermodynamics using a molecular approach."
—Enrique Peacock-Lopez, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Williams College

"Thermodynamics Kept Simple is an excellent book. It demystifies, with great devotion on the confusing details, the concepts of temperature, pressure, entropy, enthalpy, and free energy. It then explains, mainly qualitatively, topics such as mixing, chemical equilibrium, vapor pressure, and so on."
—Kristofer Modig, Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Lund University

"The author’s treatment is straightforward and appropriate for first-year students. His examples are clear, his intuitive arguments are convincing, the math is always kept simple … [and] the language is flawless."
—Stephen C. Harvey, University of Pennsylvania

"This reviewer highly commends Kjellander for engaging readers immediately in the concept of energy and entropy via a simple description of microstates coupled with straightforward algebra.  The author covers other areas informally and includes sufficient algebra and simple calculus for students to follow the text.  This non-rigorous approach may meet the objectives of science and engineering technology majors who lack preparation in multivariate calculus…. Kjellander provides helpful hints in footnotes scattered abundantly throughout the book, including messages about accurate methods to derive concepts from first principles."
—Choice (Review by R. N. Laoulache, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)

"I recommend the textbook for a first exposure to thermodynamics. Kjellander has indeed kept it simple."
Contemporary Physics (Sep 2016), review by Robert S. MacKay

"Unlike most textbooks on statistical mechanics and thermodynamics there is very little math in this book. Instead, clear explanations and illustrative examples have been put forward to support the discussions. The book also takes a very interesting and novel approach in introducing the concepts of temperature and entropy, which clears up the usual confusions and sets a strong foundation for more advanced courses. The text is easy to read and follow and does not require any particular, university level knowledge of mathematics and physics. These make it ideal for the first year students. It will be definitely in the essential reading list for my first year thermodynamics course."
—Dr Nader Karimi, School of Engineering, University of Glasgow