thermodynamic state

The thermodynamic state of a system is defined by specifying values of a set of measurable properties sufficient to determine all other properties. For fluid systems, typical properties are pressure, volume and temperature. More complex systems may require the specification of more unusual properties. As an example, the state of an electric battery requires the specification of the amount of electric charge it contains.

Properties may be extensive or intensive. Extensive properties are additive. Thus, if the system is divided into a number of sub-systems, the value of the property for the whole system is equal to the sum of the values for the parts. Volume is an extensive property. Intensive properties do not depend on the quantity of matter present. Temperature and pressure are intensive properties.

Specific properties are extensive properties per unit mass and are denoted by lower case letters. For example:

$\displaystyle \textrm{specific volume} = V/m = v.$

Specific properties are intensive because they do not depend on the mass of the system.

The properties of a simple system are uniform throughout. In general, however, the properties of a system can vary from point to point. We can usually analyze a general system by sub-dividing it (either conceptually or in practice) into a number of simple systems in each of which the properties are assumed to be uniform.

It is important to note that properties describe states only when the system is in equilibrium.


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