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Thermodynamics – Explaining the Triple Point

The triple point of a substance is the temperature and pressure at which the three phases (gas, liquid, and solid) of that substance coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. As a result, at the triple point of water, the entropy is constant. Therefore, the entropy is constant at the triple point of water. The triple point of water is used to define the Kelvin(K), the base unit of thermodynamic temperature in the International System of Units (SI).

The third law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero. The entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically zero, and in all cases is determined only by the number of different ground states it has.

The single combination of pressure and temperature at which liquid water, solid ice, and water vapor can coexist in a stable equilibrium occurs at exactly 273.1600 K (0.0100 °C; 32.0180 °F) and a partial vapor pressure of 611.657 pascals (6.11657 mbar; 0.00603659 atm).

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The Three Laws of Energy

by Gordon Ettie

“Energy is not lost or destroyed, it is merely transferred from one party to the next.” – Sir Isaac Newton

In a discussion of energy the basic understanding revolves around the fact that there are three laws.  These are simple laws dealing with energy and can be defined as follows:

First Law

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.  This means that you can’t make energy out of nothing— the total amount of energy in the universe is a constant. (Please note that this applies to a closed system – the Earth is not a closed system, the Earth receives energy all the time from the Sun).

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Triple point

In thermodynamics, the triple point of a substance is the temperature and pressure at which three phases (for example, gas, liquid, and solid) of that substance coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. For example, the triple point of mercury occurs at a temperature of -38.8344 °C and a pressure of 0.2 mPa.

In addition to the triple point between solid, liquid, and gas, there can be triple points involving more than one solid phase, for substances with multiple polymorphs. Helium-4 is a special case that presents a triple point involving two different fluid phases (see lambda point). In general, for a system with p possible phases, there are

triple points.

The triple point of water is used to define the kelvin, the SI base unit of thermodynamic temperature.[2] The number given for the temperature of the triple point of water is an exact definition rather than a measured quantity. The triple points of several substances are used to define points in the ITS-90 international temperature scale, ranging from the triple point of hydrogen (13.8033 K) to the triple point of water (273.16 K).

Triple point cells

Triple point cells are used in the calibration of thermometers. For exacting work, triple point cells are typically filled with a highly pure chemical substance such as hydrogen, argon, mercury, or water (depending on the desired temperature). The purity of these substances can be such that only one part in a million is a contaminant, called “six nines” because it is 99.9999% pure. When it is a water-based cell, a special isotopic composition called VSMOW is used because it is very pure and produces temperatures that are more comparable from lab to lab. Triple point cells are so effective at achieving highly precise, reproducible temperatures, an international calibration standard for thermometers called ITS–90 relies upon triple point cells of hydrogen, neon, oxygen, argon, mercury, and water for delineating six of its defined temperature points.