Internal Energy, Heat and Work
Internal energy of a gas is directly related to its absolute temperature. In this simulation, students change the internal energy of a gas sample by adding or removing heat or performing positive or negative work on the gas by changing the container size. When either action is performed, the temperature of the gas and the average speed of the gas molecules change. The abstract nature of internal energy makes it difficult for students to connect with this important concept. This simulation links internal energy visually with changes in molecular speed and absolute temperature. Furthermore, the student can change the internal energy by adding or removing energy in two ways, as heat and as mechanical work. Many students link heat and temperature too tightly, and assume the two are synonymous. That the temperature of the gas can also be changed by adding ore removing energy in the form of mechanical work is much more difficult to visualize, and is clearly illustrated by this simulation.
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