Monday, December 31, 2007

Two Questions on Specific Heat of Gases

Questions involving specific heats of gases have been discussed in some of the posts on this site. By clicking on the label ‘molar specific heat’ below this post, you will find some of the useful posts in this context. In particular, go through the post dated 1st September 2006.

Let us discuss two more questions involving specific heats of gases:

(1) An ideal diatomic gas in a container is heated so that half of the gas molecules dissociate into atoms. The molar specific heats (at constant volume) of the sample of the gas in the container before and after heating are C1 and C2. Then C1/C2 is

(a) 3/7 (b) 5/7 (c) 7/9

(d) 9/10 (e) 15/11

The important point to note here is that on dissociation, each particle (diatomic molecule) with 5 degrees of freedom produces two particles (individual atoms) with 3 degrees of freedom. Therefore you have to use the value Cv = (5/2)R for the undissociated molecule and the value Cv = (3/2)R for the atoms formed on dissociation (Cv is the molar specific heat at constant volume and R is the universal gas constant).

Assuming that there are ‘n’ moles of the diatomic gas initially, the number of moles after dissociation is (3/2)n, with (n/2)×2 = n moles of atoms and n/2 moles of molecules.

The molar specific heat (at constant volume) before dissociation,

C1 = (5/2)R, appropriate for a diatomic gas.

The molar specific heat (at constant volume) after dissociation,

C2 = (Heat supplied for increasing the temperature through 1 K) /Number of moles

= [n×(3/2)R + (n/2)×(5/2)R] / (3/2)n = (11/6)R

Therefore, C1/C2 = (5/2)R/(11/6)R = 15/11.

(2) An ideal diatomic gas is heated at constant pressure. What is the fraction of the heat energy supplied, which increases the internal energy of the gas?

(a) 2/3 (b) 3/5 (c) 5/7

(d) 7/9 (e) 1/2

This is a simple question but it has appeared in various entrance test papers.

When you heat a gas at constant pressure, the gas expands, thereby doing work. When one mole of a diatomic gas is considered, the increase in the internal energy on heating it through 1 K is equal to its molar specific heat (molar heat capacity) at constant volume, which is (5/2) R where R is the universal gas constant. The total heat energy supplied in this case for increasing the internal energy and for doing the external work is the molar specific heat at constant pressure, which is (7/2) R. The fraction required in the question is therefore [(5/2)R] /[(7/2)R] = 5/7

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