Thermodynamics: From Concepts to Applications

December 3, 2009

Thermodynamics, the authors tell us, is viewed by many students as a difficult subject. This is their attempt to provide a clear and accessible introduction to the subject that is self-contained and mathematically rigorous. Although targeted at engineering undergraduates, the exposition covers the same basic material as an equivalent course in a physics degree.

As befits a text designed to accompany a first undergraduate course in classical thermodynamics, the book covers the fundamentals in detail. The concepts of heat, work, ideal gases, the first and second laws, heat engines, entropy and other functions of state, and phase changes are explored. Further chapters, perhaps more relevant to engineering courses, discuss control, multi-component and non-ideal systems. Each chapter is divided into sections that explore topics concept by concept, including annotated proofs where appropriate. Worked examples are included in the text. At the end of each chapter a comprehensive collection of problems (with numerical solutions included at the end of the book) test understanding and the student's ability to apply concepts.

There are many thermodynamics books out there. What makes this one different is the attractive layout, sheer volume of problems included (800), and the many examples taken from engineering applications. If you are an engineering undergraduate the last is no doubt a good thing, although the emphasis and later chapters will be less relevant for physics undergraduates. Also noteworthy is the gradual and thorough construction of arguments in each topic. This will suit students who want to follow every line of an argument, or to fill in gaps in their understanding.

However, the book suffers from one disadvantage; explanations and physical insights are surprisingly thin on the ground. Work, for example, is defined as "an interaction between two systems, such that whatever happens in each system and its boundary could have happened exactly, while the only effect external to that system would be a change in the level of a weight in a gravitational field", a description that is awkward at best, and confusing at worst.

This is a frustrating omission, given the care that the authors have expended in creating self-consistent descriptions and proofs from first principles, and one that will not help them achieve their aim of making thermodynamics easier and more accessible. For that reason this book is best used in parallel with one of the many other excellent texts on the market, for example C.B.P. Finn's Thermal Physics or K. Stowe's An Introduction to Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics. If supplemented with the relevant explanations, students may find this text a useful resource.

Who is it for? Undergraduates taking a first course in thermodynamics.

Presentation: Attractive; clearly laid out annotated proofs, with illustrative figures and boxes containing worked examples.

Would you recommend it? Only in conjunction with another thermodynamics text that provides better physical explanations.

Thermodynamics: From Concepts to Applications

Authors: Arthur Shavit and Chaim Gutfinger

Edition: Second

Publisher: CRC Press

Pages: 642

Price: £49.99

ISBN: 9781420073683

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