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Physics LibreTexts

13.2: Compression

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  • The way in which the volume of a material decreases with pressure at constant temperature is described by the isothermal compressibility, κ:

    \[ \kappa=-\frac{1}{V}\left(\frac{\partial V}{\partial P}\right)_{T}.\]

    Note the necessary minus sign.

    Later, we shall need to distinguish between “isothermal compressibility” and “adiabatic compressibility”, and we shall need a subscript to the symbol κ in order to distinguish between the two. For the time being, however, κ with no subscript will be taken to mean the isothermal compressibility.

    The reciprocal of κ is called the isothermal bulk modulus, sometimes (understandably) called the isothermal incompressibility.

    Question: What are the SI units for compressibility and bulk modulus?

    Exercise: Show that the isothermal compressibility of an ideal gas is 1/P.

    Exercise: What is the bulk modulus of air at atmospheric pressure?

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