Heat and Thermal Energy

When scientists originally studied thermodynamics, they were really studying heat and thermal energy. Heat can do anything: move from one area to another, get atoms excited, and even increase energy. Did we say energy? That's what heat is. When you increase the heat in a system, you are really increasing the amount of energy in the system. Now that you understand that fact, you can see that the study of thermodynamics is the study of the amount of energy moving in and out of systems.

Heat of Atoms

Now all of this energy is moving around the world. You need to remember that it all happens on a really small scale. Energy that is transferred is at an atomic level. Atoms and molecules are transmitting these tiny amounts of energy. When heat moves from one area to another, it's because millions of atoms and molecules are working together. Those millions of pieces become the energy flow throughout the entire planet.

Heat Movement

Heat moves from one system to another because of differences in the temperatures of the systems. If you have two identical systems with equal temperatures, there will be no flow of energy. When you have two systems with different temperatures, the energy will start to flow. Air mass of high pressure forces large numbers of molecules into areas of low pressure. Areas of high temperature give off energy to areas with lower temperature. There is a constant flow of energy throughout the universe. Heat is only one type of that energy.

Increasing Energy and Entropy

Another big idea in thermodynamics is the concept of energy that changes the freedom of molecules. For example, when you change the state of a system (solid, liquid, gas), the atoms and/or molecules have different arrangements and degrees of freedom to move. That increase in freedom is called entropy. Atoms are able to move around more and there is more activity. That increase in freedom (also called randomness) is an increase in entropy.

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