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The Kinetic Theory of Gases

We can summarize the kinetic theory of gases with four basic postulates:
1. Gases are made up of molecules: We can treat molecules as point masses that are
perfect spheres. Molecules in a gas are very far apart, so that the space between each
individual molecule is many orders of magnitude greater than the diameter of the
2. Molecules are in constant random motion: There is no general pattern governing either
the magnitude or direction of the velocity of the molecules in a gas. At any given time,
molecules are moving in many different directions at many different speeds.
3. The movement of molecules is governed by Newtons Laws: In accordance with
Newtons First Law, each molecule moves in a straight line at a steady velocity, not
interacting with any of the other molecules except in a collision. In a collision, molecules
exert equal and opposite forces on one another.
4. Molecular collisions are perfectly elastic: Molecules do not lose any kinetic energy
when they collide with one another.
The kinetic theory projects a picture of gases as tiny balls that bounce off one another whenever
they come into contact. This is, of course, only an approximation, but it turns out to be a
remarkably accurate approximation for how gases behave in the real world.
The kinetic theory explains why temperature should be a measure of the average kinetic energy
of molecules. According to the kinetic theory, any given molecule has a certain mass, m; a certain
velocity, v; and a kinetic energy of 1/ 2 mv2. As we said, molecules in any system move at a wide
variety of different velocities, but the average of these velocities reflects the total amount of
energy in that system.
We know from experience that substances are solids at lower temperatures and liquids and gases
at higher temperatures. This accord with our definition of temperature as average kinetic energy:
since the molecules in gases and liquids have more freedom of movement, they have a higher
average velocity.
In physics, pressure, P, is the measure of the force exerted over a certain area. We generally say
something exerts a lot of pressure on an object if it exerts a great amount of force on that object,
and if that force is exerted over a small area. Mathematically:

Pressure is measured in units of pascals (Pa), where 1 Pa = 1 N/m2.

Pressure comes into play whenever force is exerted on a certain area, but it plays a particularly
important role with regard to gases. The kinetic theory tells us that gas molecules obey Newtons
Laws: they travel with a constant velocity until they collide, exerting a force on the object with

which they collide. If we imagine gas molecules in a closed container, the molecules will collide
with the walls of the container with some frequency, each time exerting a small force on the
walls of the container. The more frequently these molecules collide with the walls of the
container, the greater the net force and hence the greater the pressure they exert on the walls of
the container.
Balloons provide an example of how pressure works. By forcing more and more air into an
enclosed space, a great deal of pressure builds up inside the balloon. In the meantime, the rubber
walls of the balloon stretch out more and more, becoming increasingly weak. The balloon will
pop when the force of pressure exerted on the rubber walls is greater than the walls can
The main difference between evaporation and boiling are:
1. Evaporation takes place at all temperatures, while boiling occurs at a particular temperature.
2. Evaporation takes place from the surface, whereas the entire liquid boils.
3. Evaporation can occur using the internal energy of the system, while boiling requires an
external source of heat.
4. Evaporation produces cooling but boiling does not.
5. Evaporation is a slow process while boiling is a rapid process.
Cooling effect of evaporation
The term "Evaporation Cooling" describes an effect which occurs during the evaporation of liquids in
general. Whenever a liquid evaporates the process needs some additional energy to mobilize the
molecules of the liquid and thereby the surrounding matter is deprived of this energy which results in a
cooling effect. The cooling effect on a surface is as a result of faster moving molecules escaping from a
surface leaving slower moving molecules. According to the kinetic theory, slower moving molecules will
be at a lower temperature than faster moving ones. (E.g. bathing in hot water, rubbing with alcohol)
The process of evaporation and therefore the cooling effect will be enhanced greatly if the emerging water
vapor is transported off by a stream of dry air, so that at any moment in time enough unsaturated air is
available to enhance evaporation.

Important factors that affect evaporation are:

1. Wind assists evaporation; for example in clothes dry faster under a fan.
2. Heat assists evaporation; for example, in summer clothes dry faster than in winter.

3. Increase in surface area exposed assists evaporation; for instance, a wet cloth spread out dries
faster than when folded.
4. Dryness assists evaporation; for instance, clothes dry faster in summer than during the
monsoon when the air is humid.
5. Rate of evaporation depends upon the nature of the liquid; for example, petrol evaporates
faster than water.
6. Vapor pressure: if pressure is applied on the surface of a liquid, evaporation is hindered;
consider, for example, the case of a pressure cooker.
Brownian motion
Brownian motion is the vibrating motion of a smoke particle (when smoke is viewed through a
It is caused by the fast moving are particles hitting the smoke particle and knocking it around.
In 1827, the botanist Robert Brown, looking through a microscope at particles found in pollen
grains in water noted that the particles moved through the water but was not able to determine
the mechanisms that caused this motion. Atoms and molecules had long been theorized as the
constituents of matter, and many decades later, Albert Einstein published a paper in 1905 that
explained in precise detail how the motion that Brown had observed was a result of the pollen
being moved by individual water molecules. This explanation of Brownian motion served as
definitive confirmation that atoms and molecules actually exist, and was further verified
experimentally by Jean Perrin in 1908. Perrin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926
"for his work on the discontinuous structure of matter" (Einstein had received the award five
years earlier "for his services to theoretical physics" with specific citation of different research).
The direction of the force of atomic bombardment is constantly changing, and at different times
the particle is hit more on one side than another, leading to the seemingly random nature of the

Diffusion refers to the process by which molecules
intermingle as a result of their kinetic energy of random
motion. Consider two containers of gas A and B separated
by a partition. The molecules of both gases are in constant
motion and make numerous collisions with the partition. If
the partition is removed as in the lower illustration, the
gases will mix because of the random velocities of their
molecules. In time a uniform mixture of A and B molecules
will be produced in the container.
The tendency toward diffusion is very strong even at room
temperature because of the high molecular velocities
associated with the thermal energy of the particles.