Interactive Self-Study Module: Reversible and Irreversible Expansion/Compression Processes

This module uses screencasts and interactive simulations to explain the differences between reversible and irreversible expansion and compression processes. Example problems are provided to allow the user to test themselves. We suggest using the learning resources in the following order: 

  1. Attempt to answer the multiple choice ConcepTests before watching the screencasts or working with the simulations.
  2. Watch the screencasts that describe expansion and compression processes and answer the questions within the screencasts.
  3. Use the two interactive simulations to further understand the driving force for phase equilibrium in mixtures.
  4. Try to solve the two example problems before watching the solutions in the screencasts.
  5. Answer the ConcepTests.

Expansion and compression processes are used in all types of chemical engineering applications.

This module is intended for a Thermodynamics course.

Before studying this module, you should:

  • Be able to apply the first law of thermodynamics.
  • Be able to calculate enthalpy and internal energy changes of an ideal gas as temperature changes.
  • Be able to calculate entropy changes for an ideal gas.
  • Understand the meaning of adiabatic.

After studying this module, you should be able to:
  1. Explain why a reversible expansion generates more work than an irreversible expansion between the same initial and final pressures.
  2. Explain why a reversible compression requires less work than an irreversible compression between the same initial and final pressures.
  3. Given three curves, identify which curve is reversible, which is irreversible, and which is isothermal for expansions, compression on pressure-volume, pressure-temperature, enthalpy-pressure, enthalpy-entropy, and temperature-entropy plots. 
  4. Be able to determine whether a process is reversible or irreversible.