Sensible heat

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Sensible heat is heat exchanged by a body or thermodynamic system in which the exchange of heat changes the temperature of the body or system, and some macroscopic variables of the body or system, but leaves unchanged certain other macroscopic variables of the body or system, such as volume or pressure. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Heat energy transfer process, or its amount (and direction), that is associated with a temperature difference

In thermodynamics, heat is energy in transfer to or from a thermodynamic system, by mechanisms other than thermodynamic work or transfer of matter. The mechanisms include conduction, through direct contact of immobile bodies, or through a wall or barrier that is impermeable to matter; or radiation between separated bodies; or isochoric mechanical work done by the surroundings on the system of interest; or Joule heating by an electric current driven through the system of interest by an external system; or a combination of these. When there is a suitable path between two systems with different temperatures, heat transfer occurs necessarily, immediately, and spontaneously from the hotter to the colder system. Thermal conduction occurs by the stochastic (random) motion of microscopic particles. In contrast, thermodynamic work is defined by mechanisms that act macroscopically and directly on the system's whole-body state variables; for example, change of the system's volume through a piston's motion with externally measurable force; or change of the system's internal electric polarization through an externally measurable change in electric field. The definition of heat transfer does not require that the process be in any sense smooth. For example, a bolt of lightning may transfer heat to a body.

Thermodynamic system precisely specified macroscopic region of the universe, defined by boundaries

A thermodynamic system is a group of material and/or radiative contents. Its properties may be described by thermodynamic state variables such as temperature, entropy, internal energy, and pressure.



The term is used in contrast to a latent heat, which is the amount of heat exchanged that is hidden, meaning it occurs without change of temperature. For example, during a phase change such as the melting of ice, the temperature of the system containing the ice and the liquid is constant until all ice has melted. The terms latent and sensible are correlative.

Latent heat

Latent heat is thermal energy released or absorbed, by a body or a thermodynamic system, during a constant-temperature process — usually a first-order phase transition.

The sensible heat of a thermodynamic process may be calculated as the product of the body's mass (m) with its specific heat capacity (c) and the change in temperature ():

Thermodynamic process energetic development of a thermodynamic system proceeding from an initial state to a final state

Classical thermodynamics considers three main kinds of thermodynamic process: change in a system, cycles in a system, and flow processes.

Joule described sensible heat as the energy measured by a thermometer Thermometer CF.svg
Joule described sensible heat as the energy measured by a thermometer

Sensible heat and latent heat are not special forms of energy. Rather, they describe exchanges of heat under conditions specified in terms of their effect on a material or a thermodynamic system.

In the writings of the early scientists who provided the foundations of thermodynamics, sensible heat had a clear meaning in calorimetry. James Prescott Joule characterized it in 1847 as an energy that was indicated by the thermometer. [5]

Thermodynamics branch of physics concerned with heat, work, temperature, and thermal or internal energy

Thermodynamics is the branch of physics that has to do with heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics, irrespective of the composition or specific properties of the material or system in question. The laws of thermodynamics are explained in terms of microscopic constituents by statistical mechanics. Thermodynamics applies to a wide variety of topics in science and engineering, especially physical chemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Calorimetry Thermodynamic state measurement

Calorimetry is the science or act of measuring changes in state variables of a body for the purpose of deriving the heat transfer associated with changes of its state due, for example, to chemical reactions, physical changes, or phase transitions under specified constraints. Calorimetry is performed with a calorimeter. The word calorimetry is derived from the Latin word calor, meaning heat and the Greek word μέτρον (metron), meaning measure. Scottish physician and scientist Joseph Black, who was the first to recognize the distinction between heat and temperature, is said to be the founder of the science of calorimetry.

James Prescott Joule English physicist and brewer

James Prescott Joule was an English physicist, mathematician and brewer, born in Salford, Lancashire. Joule studied the nature of heat, and discovered its relationship to mechanical work. This led to the law of conservation of energy, which in turn led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named after him.

Both sensible and latent heats are observed in many processes while transporting energy in nature. Latent heat is associated with changes of state, measured at constant temperature, especially the phase changes of atmospheric water vapor, mostly vaporization and condensation, whereas sensible heat directly affects the temperature of the atmosphere.

Phase transition transitions between solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter, and, in rare cases, plasma

The term phase transition is most commonly used to describe transitions between solid, liquid, and gaseous states of matter, as well as plasma in rare cases. A phase of a thermodynamic system and the states of matter have uniform physical properties. During a phase transition of a given medium, certain properties of the medium change, often discontinuously, as a result of the change of some external condition, such as temperature, pressure, or others. For example, a liquid may become gas upon heating to the boiling point, resulting in an abrupt change in volume. The measurement of the external conditions at which the transformation occurs is termed the phase transition. Phase transitions commonly occur in nature and are used today in many technologies.

Water vapor gaseous phase of water; unlike other forms of water, water vapor is invisible

Water vapor, water vapour or aqueous vapor is the gaseous phase of water. It is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Unlike other forms of water, water vapor is invisible. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously generated by evaporation and removed by condensation. It is less dense than air and triggers convection currents that can lead to clouds.

Vaporization phase transition from the liquid phase to vapor (either through evaporation or boiling)

Vaporization of an element or compound is a phase transition from the liquid phase to vapor. There are two types of vaporization: evaporation and boiling. Evaporation is a surface phenomenon, whereas boiling is a bulk phenomenon.

In meteorology, the term 'sensible heat flux' means the conductive heat flux from the Earth's surface to the atmosphere. [6] It is an important component of Earth's surface energy budget. Sensible heat flux is commonly measured with the eddy covariance method.

Flux measure of the flow of something through a surface, in some cases per surface area

Flux describes any effect that appears to pass or travel through a surface or substance. A flux is either a concept based in physics or used with applied mathematics. Both concepts have mathematical rigor, enabling comparison of the underlying mathematics when the terminology is unclear. For transport phenomena, flux is a vector quantity, describing the magnitude and direction of the flow of a substance or property. In electromagnetism, flux is a scalar quantity, defined as the surface integral of the component of a vector field perpendicular to the surface at each point.

Eddy covariance atmospheric measurement technique

The eddy covariance technique is a key atmospheric measurement technique to measure and calculate vertical turbulent fluxes within atmospheric boundary layers. The method analyzes high-frequency wind and scalar atmospheric data series, and yields values of fluxes of these properties. It is a statistical method used in meteorology and other applications to determine exchange rates of trace gases over natural ecosystems and agricultural fields, and to quantify gas emissions rates from other land and water areas. It is frequently used to estimate momentum, heat, water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane fluxes.

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Entropy physical property of the state of a system, measure of disorder

In statistical mechanics, entropy is an extensive property of a thermodynamic system. It is closely related to the number Ω of microscopic configurations that are consistent with the macroscopic quantities that characterize the system. Under the assumption that each microstate is equally probable, the entropy is the natural logarithm of the number of microstates, multiplied by the Boltzmann constant kB. Formally,

Thermometer device to measure temperature

A thermometer is a device that measures temperature or a temperature gradient. A thermometer has two important elements: (1) a temperature sensor in which some change occurs with a change in temperature; and (2) some means of converting this change into a numerical value. Thermometers are widely used in technology and industry to monitor processes, in meteorology, in medicine, and in scientific research.

Thermodynamic free energy

The thermodynamic free energy is a concept useful in the thermodynamics of chemical or thermal processes in engineering and science. The change in the free energy is the maximum amount of work that a thermodynamic system can perform in a process at constant temperature, and its sign indicates whether a process is thermodynamically favorable or forbidden. Since free energy usually contains potential energy, it is not absolute but depends on the choice of a zero point. Therefore, only relative free energy values, or changes in free energy, are physically meaningful.

Second law of thermodynamics law of physics stating that systems spontaneously evolve towards states of higher entropy

The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time. The total entropy of a system and its surroundings can remain constant in ideal cases where the system is in thermodynamic equilibrium, or is undergoing a (fictive) reversible process. In all processes that occur, including spontaneous processes, the total entropy of the system and its surroundings increases and the process is irreversible in the thermodynamic sense. The increase in entropy accounts for the irreversibility of natural processes, and the asymmetry between future and past.

First law of thermodynamics statement of conservation of energy as it applies specifically to a thermodynamic system or process

The first law of thermodynamics is a version of the law of conservation of energy, adapted for thermodynamic systems. The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed. The first law is often formulated

Heat transfer exchange of thermal energy between physical systems

Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the generation, use, conversion, and exchange of thermal energy (heat) between physical systems. Heat transfer is classified into various mechanisms, such as thermal conduction, thermal convection, thermal radiation, and transfer of energy by phase changes. Engineers also consider the transfer of mass of differing chemical species, either cold or hot, to achieve heat transfer. While these mechanisms have distinct characteristics, they often occur simultaneously in the same system.

Zeroth law of thermodynamics principle stating if two systems are in thermal equilibrium with another, they are with each other

The zeroth law of thermodynamics states that if two thermodynamic systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third one, then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other. Accordingly, thermal equilibrium between systems is a transitive relation.

Thermodynamic equilibrium is an axiomatic concept of thermodynamics. It is an internal state of a single thermodynamic system, or a relation between several thermodynamic systems connected by more or less permeable or impermeable walls. In thermodynamic equilibrium there are no net macroscopic flows of matter or of energy, either within a system or between systems. In a system in its own state of internal thermodynamic equilibrium, no macroscopic change occurs. Systems in mutual thermodynamic equilibrium are simultaneously in mutual thermal, mechanical, chemical, and radiative equilibria. Systems can be in one kind of mutual equilibrium, though not in others. In thermodynamic equilibrium, all kinds of equilibrium hold at once and indefinitely, until disturbed by a thermodynamic operation. In a macroscopic equilibrium, almost or perfectly exactly balanced microscopic exchanges occur; this is the physical explanation of the notion of macroscopic equilibrium.

Internal energy energy contained in a system, excluding energy due to its position as a body in external force fields or its overall motion

In thermodynamics, the internal energy of a system is the total energy contained within the system. It is the energy necessary to create or prepare the system in any given state, but does not include the kinetic energy of motion of the system as a whole, nor the potential energy of the system as a whole due to external force fields which includes the energy of displacement of the system's surroundings. It keeps account of the gains and losses of energy of the system that are due to changes in its internal state.

Two physical systems are in thermal equilibrium if there is no net flow of thermal energy between them when they are connected by a path permeable to heat. Thermal equilibrium obeys the zeroth law of thermodynamics. A system is said to be in thermal equilibrium with itself if the temperature within the system is spatially uniform and temporally constant.

Thermal energy internal energy present in a system due to its temperature; is not a state function

Thermal energy can refer to several distinct thermodynamic quantities, such as the internal energy of a system; heat or sensible heat, which are defined as types of transfer of energy ; or for the characteristic energy of a degree of freedom in a thermal system , where is temperature and is the Boltzmann constant.

Laws of thermodynamics law that defines fundamental physical quantities that characterize thermodynamic systems and their behavior

The four laws of thermodynamics define fundamental physical quantities that characterize thermodynamic systems at thermal equilibrium. The laws describe how these quantities behave under various circumstances, and preclude the possibility of certain phenomena.

Joule expansion

The Joule expansion is an irreversible process in thermodynamics in which a volume of gas is kept in one side of a thermally isolated container, with the other side of the container being evacuated. The partition between the two parts of the container is then opened, and the gas fills the whole container.

Work (thermodynamics) an energy transfer, or its amount (& direction), in a thermodynamic process due to macroscopic factors external to a thermodynamic system

In thermodynamics, work performed by a system is energy transferred by the system to its surroundings, due solely to macroscopic forces exerted by the system on its surroundings, where those forces, and their external effects, can be measured. Such work is the only kind by which a thermodynamic system can be made to lift a weight.

Introduction to entropy

Entropy is an important concept in the branch of physics known as thermodynamics. The idea of "irreversibility" is central to the understanding of entropy. Everyone has an intuitive understanding of irreversibility. If one watches a movie of everyday life running forward and in reverse, it is easy to distinguish between the two. The movie running in reverse shows impossible things happening – water jumping out of a glass into a pitcher above it, smoke going down a chimney, water in a glass freezing to form ice cubes, crashed cars reassembling themselves, and so on. The intuitive meaning of expressions such as "you can't unscramble an egg", or "you can't take the cream out of the coffee" is that these are irreversible processes. No matter how long you wait, the cream won't jump out of the coffee into the creamer.

Temperature physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold

Temperature is a physical quantity expressing hot and cold. It is measured with a thermometer calibrated in one or more temperature scales. The most commonly used scales are the Celsius scale, Fahrenheit scale, and Kelvin scale. The kelvin is the unit of temperature in the International System of Units (SI), in which temperature is one of the seven fundamental base quantities. The Kelvin scale is widely used in science and technology.


  1. Partington, J.R. (1949). An Advanced Treatise on Physical Chemistry, Volume 1, Fundamental Principles. The Properties of Gases, Longmans, Green, and Co., London, pages 155-157.
  2. Prigogine, I., Defay, R. (1950/1954). Chemical Thermodynamics, Longmans, Green & Co, London, pages 22-23.
  3. Adkins, C.J. (1975). Equilibrium Thermodynamics, second edition, McGraw-Hill, London, ISBN   0-07-084057-1, Section 3.6, pages 43-46.
  4. Landsberg, P.T. (1978). Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN   0-19-851142-6, page 11.
  5. J. P. Joule (1884), The Scientific Paper of James Prescott Joule, The Physical Society of London, p. 274, I am inclined to believe that both of these hypotheses will be found to hold good,that in some instances, particularly in the case of sensible heat, or such as is indicated by the thermometer, heat will be found to consist in the living force of the particles of the bodies in which it is induced;, Lecture on Matter, Living Force, and Heat. May 5 and 12, 1847
  6. Stull, R.B. (2000). Meteorology for Scientists and Engineers, second edition, Brooks/Cole, Belmont CA, ISBN   978-0-534-37214-9, page 57.