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Ideal gas law

temperature used in the equation of state is an absolute

temperature: in the SI system of units, Kelvin.[4]

1.1 Common form

The most frequently introduced form is

P V = nRT
P is the pressure of the gas
V is the volume of the gas
n is the amount of substance of gas (also known as number
of moles)
R is the ideal, or universal, gas constant, equal to the product of the Boltzmann constant and the Avogadro constant.

Isotherms of an ideal gas. The curved lines represent the relationship between pressure (on the vertical, y-axis) and volume (on
the horizontal, x-axis) for an ideal gas at dierent temperatures:
lines which are further away from the origin (that is, lines that
are nearer to the top right-hand corner of the diagram) represent
higher temperatures.

T is the temperature of the gas

In SI units, P is measured in pascals, V is measured in

cubic metres, n is measured in moles, and T in Kelvin
(The Kelvin scale is a shifted Celsius scale where 0.00
Kelvin = 273.15 degrees Celsius, the lowest possible
temperature). R has the value 8.314 JK1 mol1 or
The ideal gas law is the equation of state of a hypothet- 0.08206 Latmmol1 K1 or 2 calories if using pressure
ical ideal gas. It is a good approximation to the behavior in standard atmospheres (atm) instead of pascals, and volof many gases under many conditions, although it has sev- ume in litres instead of cubic metres.
eral limitations. It was rst stated by mile Clapeyron in
1834 as a combination of Boyles law, Charless law and
Avogadros Law.[1] The ideal gas law is often written as: 1.2 Molar form
How much gas is present could be specied by giving the
mass instead of the chemical amount of gas. Therefore,
P V = nRT
an alternative form of the ideal gas law may be useful.
The chemical amount (n) (in moles) is equal to the mass
where the letters denote pressure, volume, amount (in
(m) (in grams) divided by the molar mass (M) (in grams
moles), ideal gas constant, and temperature of the gas,
per mole):
It can also be derived microscopically from kinetic
theory, as was achieved (apparently independently) by n = m
August Krnig in 1856[2] and Rudolf Clausius in 1857.[3]
By replacing n with m / M, and subsequently introducing
density = m/V, we get:


The state of an amount of gas is determined by its pressure, volume, and temperature. The modern form of the
equation relates these simply in two main forms. The

PV =


P =


Dening the specic gas constant R as the ratio R/M,

P = Rspecific T
This form of the ideal gas law is very useful because it
links pressure, density, and temperature in a unique formula independent of the quantity of the considered gas.
Alternatively, the law may be written in terms of the
specic volume v, the reciprocal of density, as

P v = Rspecific T
It is common, especially in engineering applications, to
represent the specic gas constant by the symbol R. In
such cases, the universal gas constant is usually given a
dierent symbol such as R to distinguish it. In any case,
the context and/or units of the gas constant should make
it clear as to whether the universal or specic gas constant
is being referred to.[5]


Statistical mechanics


2 Applications to thermodynamic
The table below essentially simplies the ideal gas equation for a particular processes, thus making this equation
easier to solve using numerical methods.
A thermodynamic process is dened as a system that
moves from state 1 to state 2, where the state number
is denoted by subscript. As shown in the rst column
of the table, basic thermodynamic processes are dened
such that one of the gas properties (P, V, T, or S) is constant throughout the process.
For a given thermodynamics process, in order to specify the extent of a particular process, one of the properties ratios (which are listed under the column labeled
known ratio) must be specied (either directly or indirectly). Also, the property for which the ratio is known
must be distinct from the property held constant in the
previous column (otherwise the ratio would be unity, and
not enough information would be available to simplify the
gas law equation).

In the nal three columns, the properties (P, V, or T) at

2 can be calculated from the properties at state 1
In statistical mechanics the following molecular equation
the equations listed.
is derived from rst principles:

P V = N kB T
where P is the absolute pressure of the gas measured in
pascals; N is the number of molecules in the given volume
V. The number density is given by the ratio N/V; kB is the
Boltzmann constant relating temperature and energy; and
T is the absolute temperature.
The number density contrasts to the other formulation,
which uses n, the number of moles and V, the volume. This relation implies that R=NAkB where NA is
Avogadros constant, and the consistency of this result
with experiment is a good check on the principles of statistical mechanics.

a. In an isentropic process, system entropy (S) is constant. Under these conditions, P 1 V 1 = P 2 V 2 , where
is dened as the heat capacity ratio, which is constant for
a calorically perfect gas. The value used for is typically 1.4 for diatomic gases like nitrogen (N2 ) and oxygen
(O2 ), (and air, which is 99% diatomic). Also is typically 1.6 for monatomic gases like the noble gases helium
(He), and argon (Ar). In internal combustion engines
varies between 1.35 and 1.15, depending on constitution
gases and temperature.

3 Deviations from ideal behavior of

real gases

From this we can notice that for an average particle mass

The equation of state given here applies only to an ideal
of times the atomic mass constant m (i.e., the mass is
gas, or as an approximation to a real gas that behaves suf u)
ciently like an ideal gas. There are in fact many dierent
forms of the equation of state. Since the ideal gas law nem
glects both molecular size and intermolecular attractions,
Y =
it is most accurate for monatomic gases at high tempermu
atures and low pressures. The neglect of molecular size
and since = mn, we nd that the ideal gas law can be becomes less important for lower densities, i.e. for larger
rewritten as:
volumes at lower pressures, because the average distance
between adjacent molecules becomes much larger than
the molecular size. The relative importance of interk
1 m
kT =
P =
molecular attractions diminishes with increasing thermal
V mu
kinetic energy, i.e., with increasing temperatures. More
In SI units, P is measured in pascals; V in cubic metres; detailed equations of state, such as the van der Waals
Y is a dimensionless number; and T in Kelvin. k has the equation, account for deviations from ideality caused by
molecular size and intermolecular forces.
value 1.381023 JK1 in SI units.

A residual property is dened as the dierence between a where the rst equality is Newtons second law, and
real gas property and an ideal gas property, both consid- the second line uses Hamiltons equations and the
ered at the same pressure, temperature, and composition. equipartition theorem. Summing over a system of N particles yields

3N kB T =



qk F k .


By Newtons third law and the ideal gas assumption, the

The ideal gas law can be derived from combining two em- net force of the system is the force applied by the walls
pirical gas laws: the combined gas law and Avogadros of the container, and this force is given by the pressure P
law. The combined gas law state that
of the gas. Hence

qk F k

q dS,



where C is a constant which is directly proportional to the

amount of gas, n (Avogadros law). The proportionality where dS is the innitesimal area element along the walls
of the container. Since the divergence of the position vecfactor is the universal gas constant, R, i.e. C = nR.
tor q is
Hence the ideal gas law

P V = nRT


= 3,

the divergence theorem implies that


Kinetic theory

q dS = P


( q) dV = 3P V,

Main article: Kinetic theory of gases

where dV is an innitesimal volume within the container

and V is the total volume of the container.

The ideal gas law can also be derived from rst principles
using the kinetic theory of gases, in which several simplifying assumptions are made, chief among which are that
the molecules, or atoms, of the gas are point masses, possessing mass but no signicant volume, and undergo only
elastic collisions with each other and the sides of the container in which both linear momentum and kinetic energy
are conserved.

Putting these equalities together yields

which immediately implies the ideal gas law for N particles:


P V = N kB T = nRT,

Statistical mechanics

3N kB T =

qk F k

= 3P V,


Main article: Statistical mechanics

where n = N/NA is the number of moles of gas and R =

NAkB is the gas constant.

Let q = (q, q , q ) and p = (p, p , p ) denote the position

vector and momentum vector of a particle of an ideal gas,
respectively. Let F denote the net force on that particle.
Then the time-averaged potential energy of the particle is:

5 See also
Van der Waals equation
Boltzmann constant

dp dp dp
Conguration integral
+ qy
+ qz
q F = qx
Dynamic pressure
= qx
= 3kB T, Internal energy


[1] Clapeyron, E (1834). Mmoire sur la puissance motrice

de la chaleur. Journal de l'cole Polytechnique (in
French) XIV: 15390. Facsimile at the Bibliothque nationale de France (pp. 15390).
[2] Krnig, A. (1856). Grundzge einer Theorie der
Annalen der Physik und Chemie (in German) 99 (10): 31522. Bibcode:1856AnP...175..315K.
doi:10.1002/andp.18561751008. Facsimile at the Bibliothque nationale de France (pp. 31522).
[3] Clausius, R. (1857).
Ueber die Art der Bewegung, welche wir Wrme nennen.
der Physik und Chemie (in German) 176
Facsimile at the
Bibliothque nationale de France (pp. 35379).
[4] Equation of State.
[5] Moran and Shapiro, Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, Wiley, 4th Ed, 2000

Further reading
Davis and Masten Principles of Environmental Engineering and Science, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
New York (2002) ISBN 0-07-235053-9
Website giving credit to Benot Paul mile Clapeyron, (17991864) in 1834

External links
Conguration integral (statistical mechanics) where
an alternative statistical mechanics derivation of the
ideal-gas law, using the relationship between the
Helmholtz free energy and the partition function,
but without using the equipartition theorem, is provided. Vu-Quoc, L., Conguration integral (statistical mechanics), 2008. this wiki site is down; see
this article in the web archive on 2012 April 28.
Online Ideal Gas law Calculator


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