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Rights: The Royal Society, TVNZ 7 in partnership with the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology
Published 15 December 2010

This is a simple explanation of thermodynamics and includes some everyday examples of the application of thermodynamic principles.

This one minute animated video from TVNZ aims to demystifies commonly used, but little understood scientific and technological jargon.


What are thermodynamics?

Those aspects of physics dealing with the relationships and conversions between heat and other forms of energy.

The word ‘thermodynamic’ comes from the Greek words ‘therme’ which means heat and ‘dynamis’, meaning power.

The famous first law of thermodynamics states: no form of energy can be created or destroyed but only transformed from one form to another. Therefore the total energy in the universe remains the same.

Thermodynamic principles are used everywhere. The engines of cars are thermodynamic cycles. Power plants transfer heat from a hot source such as burning coal to heat water that powers turbines using thermodynamic design. And your fridge at home uses thermodynamic devices, too.

Thermodynamic ideas are used in designing chemical reactions - for instance hot or cold packs to put on a sore shoulder.

And that’s what thermodynamics involves.