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Joule-Thomson effect
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In physics, the Joule-Thomson effect, or Joule-Kelvin effect, is a process in which the
temperature of an ideal gas does not change, but the temperature of a real gas is either
decreased or increased by letting the gas expand freely at constant enthalpy (which means
that no heat is transferred to or from the gas, and no external work is extracted).
It's named for James Prescott Joule and William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin who
established the effect in 1852 following earlier work by Joule on Joule expansion in
which a gas expands at constant internal energy.

Contents
[hide]

1 Description
2 The Joule-Thomson (Kelvin) coefficient
3 Physical mechanism
4 Applications
5 See also
6 Bibliography

7 External links

[edit] Description
The relationship between temperature, pressure and volume of a gas is simply described
by the various gas laws. When volume is increased in an irreversible process, the gas
laws do not uniquely determine what happens to the pressure and temperature of the gas.
Isentropic expansion, in which the gas does positive work in the process of expansion,
always causes a decrease in temperature.

However, when a real gas (as differentiated from an ideal gas) expands freely at constant
enthalpy, the temperature may either decrease or increase, depending on the initial
temperature and pressure. For any given pressure, a real gas has a Joule-Thomson
(Kelvin) inversion temperature, above which expansion at constant enthalpy causes the
temperature to rise, and below which expansion at constant enthalpy causes cooling. For
most gases at atmospheric pressure, the inversion temperature is fairly high (above room
temperature), and so most gases at those temperature and pressure conditions are cooled
by isenthalpic expansion.

[edit] The Joule-Thomson (Kelvin) coefficient


The change of temperature with respect to a change of pressure in a Joule-Thomson
process is the Joule-Thomson (Kelvin) coefficient:
The value of JT is typically expressed in C/bar (SI units: K/Pa) and depends on the
specific gas, as well as the temperature and pressure of the gas before expansion.
For all real gases, it will equal zero at some point called the inversion point and, as
explained above, the Joule-Thomson inversion temperature is the temperature where
the coefficient changes sign (i.e., where the coefficient equals zero). The Joule-Thomson
inversion temperature depends on the pressure of the gas before expansion.
In any gas expansion, the gas pressure decreases and thus the sign of is always negative.
With that in mind, the following table explains when the Joule-Thomson effect cools or
heats a real gas:
If the gas temperature is
then JT is
since is
thus must be so the gas
below the inversion temperature positive always negative negative
cools
above the inversion temperature negative always negative positive
heats
Helium and hydrogen are two gases whose Joule-Thomson inversion temperatures at one
atmosphere are very low (e.g., about 222 C for helium). Thus, helium and hydrogen
will warm when expanded at constant enthalpy at typical room temperatures.
It should be noted that JT is always equal to zero for ideal gases (i.e., they will neither
heat nor cool upon being expanded at constant enthalpy).

[edit] Physical mechanism


As a gas expands, the average distance between molecules grows. Because of
intermolecular attractive forces, expansion causes an increase in the potential energy of
the gas. If no external work is extracted in the process (free expansion) and no heat is
transferred, the total energy of the gas remains the same because of the conservation of
energy. The increase in potential energy thus means a decrease in kinetic energy and
therefore in temperature.

A second mechanism has the opposite effect. During gas molecule collisions, kinetic
energy is temporarily converted into potential energy. As the average intermolecular
distance increases, there is a drop in the number of collisions per time unit, which causes
a decrease in average potential energy. Again, total energy is conserved, so this leads to
an increase in kinetic energy (temperature). Below the Joule-Thompson inversion
temperature, the former effect (work done internally against intermolecular attractive
forces) dominates, and free expansion causes a decrease in temperature. Above the
inversion temperature, the latter effect (reduced collisions causing a decrease in the
average potential energy) dominates, and free expansion causes a temperature increase.

[edit] Applications
As for how the Joule-Thomson effect is achieved in practice:

The real gas is allowed to expand through a throttling device (usually a valve)
which must be very well insulated to prevent any heat transfer to or from the gas.

There must be no external work extracted from the gas during the expansion (the
gas must not be expanded through a turbine, for example).

The effect is applied in the Linde technique as a standard process in the petrochemical
industry for example, where the cooling effect is used to liquefy gases, and also in many
cryogenic applications (e.g. for the production of liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon).
Only when the Joule-Thomson coefficient for the given gas at the given temperature is
greater than zero can the gas be liquefied at that temperature by the Linde cycle. In other
words, a gas must be below its inversion temperature to be liquified by the Linde cycle.
For this reason, simple Linde cycle liquifiers cannot normally be used to liquify helium,
hydrogen and neon.