Gases are complicated. A typical experiment with gases involves billions of atoms and molecules that are all colliding with each other. It is impossible to calculate all of these interactions but the concept of an 'ideal gas' approximates how these collisions work and allows us to predict the behaviour of a real gas. In this experiment you can explore how gas temperature, volume and pressure are related and how you could use them to create a heat engine.
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Thermodynamics and engine cycles are relevant to most areas of technology and science.
The behaviour of gases is used directly in applications as diverse as compressors, refrigerators, power generation from steam-driven turbines (used in gas-fired, coal-fired or nuclear power stations), pumping of gases (from natural gas pipe networks to aqualungs), and transport vehicles using petrol and diesel engines (combustion engines), jet and rocket engines, high performance tyres (e.g. for F1 cars) and even hot air balloons!
Thermodynamics is relevant far more widely though and to any system in which there is a change in energy, volume or ordering. This is relevant to almost every process around us, from sub-atomic particles forming atoms to the expansion of the universe and taking in atoms bonding to make a molecule or crystal (Physics), molecules reacting with each other (Chemistry), all biological processes (Biology), the weathering of rocks and tectonic plate movement (Geology). Even your breathing while you read this and your eye converting light into electrical signals so you can read this are thermodynamic processes. All energy technologies, materials manufacturing or recycling, chemical processing, transport technologies and even information technologies rely upon the principles of thermodynamics.
Thermodynamics and gas laws are, therefore, incredibly important topics. The FlashyScience Gas Laws virtual experiment allows you to start to explore this fascinating area of science and engineering.
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Also, download the ‘How To’ attachments for step-by-step instructions on conducting experiments for:
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Download the attached file to see lots of Gas Laws experiments and questions (requires log in).
Here are a few simple suggestions for you to start exploring how ideal gases behave:
Download the attached file to see the Background science behind the Gas Laws experiment (requires log in)
There are lots of ways that we use materials that see them change temperature. Some examples include heating systems in buildings (especially storage heaters), simple household appliances such as an iron or an oven, combustion engines in cars, jet engines in aircraft, high speed machines such as drills, and industrial furnaces; however, examples also include applications where the temperature is reduced, for example in refrigerators, freezers and heat sinks, which are used to help cool another component.
A change in a material’s temperature will also result in a change in its heat energy. Different materials, however, will have a different change in heat energy for a given change in temperature.
The materials property we use to show this difference is called specific heat capacity. This property is key to allowing us to understand how components will perform in thermal applications and help us to choose the most appropriate material. If you go to study Physics or Engineering at university you will probably also learn how specific heat capacity values depend on a material’s types of atom, atomic bonding and electrical properties.
Download the attachment to see the one-page quick guide (requires login)
Download the attached file to see the full instructions for this experiment (requires login)
There are two files to download here, both requiring a login first.
The 'Activities' download gives full step-by-step instructions for four activities with this experiment
The 'Worksheets' download provides worksheets for these four activities that can be printed out and written on directly.
Download the attached file to see the scientific background to this experiment (requires login)