Skip to main content
Physics LibreTexts

1: Temperature and Heat

  • Page ID
    4350
  • In this chapter, we explore heat and temperature. It is not always easy to distinguish these terms. Heat is the flow of energy from one object to another. This flow of energy is caused by a difference in temperature. The transfer of heat can change temperature, as can work, another kind of energy transfer that is central to thermodynamics. We return to these basic ideas several times throughout the next four chapters, and you will see that they affect everything from the behavior of atoms and molecules to cooking to our weather on Earth to the life cycles of stars.

    • 1.0: Prelude to Temperature and Heat
      Heat and temperature are important concepts for each of us, every day. How we dress in the morning depends on whether the day is hot or cold, and most of what we do requires energy that ultimately comes from the Sun. The study of heat and temperature is part of an area of physics known as thermodynamics. The laws of thermodynamics govern the flow of energy throughout the universe. They are studied in all areas of science and engineering, from chemistry to biology to environmental science.
    • 1.1: Temperature and Thermal Equilibrium
      Temperature is operationally defined as the quantity measured by a thermometer. It is proportional to the average kinetic energy of atoms and molecules in a system. Thermal equilibrium occurs when two bodies are in contact with each other and can freely exchange energy. Systems are in thermal equilibrium when they have the same temperature. The zeroth law of thermodynamics states that when two systems, A and B, are in thermal equilibrium with each other, and B is in thermal equilibrium with a th
    • 1.2: Thermometers and Temperature Scales
      Three types of thermometers are alcohol, liquid crystal, and infrared radiation (pyrometer). The three main temperature scales are Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. Temperatures can be converted from one scale to another using temperature conversion equations. The three phases of water (ice, liquid water, and water vapor) can coexist at a single pressure and temperature known as the triple point.
    • 1.3: Thermal Expansion
      Thermal expansion is the increase of the size (length, area, or volume) of a body due to a change in temperature, usually a rise. Thermal contraction is the decrease in size due to a change in temperature, usually a fall in temperature. Thermal stress is created when thermal expansion or contraction is constrained.
    • 1.4: Heat Transfer, Specific Heat, and Calorimetry
      Heat is a type of energy transfer that is caused by a temperature difference, and it can change the temperature of an object. As we learned earlier in this chapter, heat transfer is the movement of energy from one place or material to another as a result of a difference in temperature. Heat transfer is fundamental to such everyday activities as home heating and cooking, as well as many industrial processes. It also forms a basis for the topics in the remainder of this chapter.
    • 1.5: Phase Changes
      Phase transitions play an important theoretical and practical role in the study of heat flow. In melting (or “fusion”), a solid turns into a liquid; the opposite process is freezing. In evaporation, a liquid turns into a gas; the opposite process is condensation.
    • 1.6: Mechanisms of Heat Transfer
      Just as interesting as the effects of heat transfer on a system are the methods by which it occurs. Whenever there is a temperature difference, heat transfer occurs. It may occur rapidly, as through a cooking pan, or slowly, as through the walls of a picnic ice chest. So many processes involve heat transfer that it is hard to imagine a situation where no heat transfer occurs. Yet every heat transfer takes place by only three methods:  conduction, convection and radiation.
    • 1.E: Temperature and Heat (Exercises)
    • 1.S: Temperature and Heat (Summary)
    • 1.A: Temperature and Heat (Answer)

    Thumbnail: Natural convection plays an important role in heat transfer inside this pot of water. Once conducted to the inside, heat transfer to other parts of the pot is mostly by convection. The hotter water expands, decreases in density, and rises to transfer heat to other regions of the water, while colder water sinks to the bottom. This process keeps repeating.