# Expansion and Compression of Ideal Gases

A discussion on the expansion and compression of ideal gases, also considering the particular cases of isothermal and adiabatic processes

## Overview

**Key facts**The expansion and compression of ideal gases are polytropic processes, and therefore satisfy: where is the polytropic index. The work done during a polytropic expansion is given by: or by: where are pressures, volumes, temperatures, the mass, the universal gas constant, and the polytropic index. The work done during a polytropic compression is given by: or by: where are pressures, volumes, temperatures, the mass, the universal gas constant, and the polytropic index. The heat supplied during a polytropic expansion is given by: where is the heat capacity ratio, the polytropic index, and the work done during the expansion. The work done during an isothermal () expansion or compression can be written as: where is the mass, the universal gas constant, the temperature, the initial volume, and the final volume. The heat changed during an isothermal expansion or compression is given by: where is the work done. The work done during an adiabatic () expansion is given by: and for an adiabatic compression by: where is the change in internal energy. <br/>

**Constants**

The expansion and compression of ideal gases are regularly considered to be polytropic processes. Therefore, they satisfy the equation:
where is called the polytropic index.
However, we also know that ideal gases follow the so-called combined gas law (for a more detailed discussion also see Thermodynamics of Ideal Gases ), which states that:
Therefore, when dividing equation (2) by we will also get a constant:
or, written in a different form:
from which we obtain that, during an expansion or compression, ideal gases satisfy:
Also, we can rewrite equation (3) as:
By using the expression form of the volume from (7) in equation (2), we get that:
which leads to another equation which is satisfied during the expansion or compression of ideal gases:
Let us now consider the work done during a polytropic expansion or compression. We know that the work done by a gas which is expanding from state to state is given by:
As this is a polytropic expansion, we also have that:
or, furthermore, that:
where is a constant, and the polytropic index. By using the expression of pressure from (12) in equation (10), we get the work done by the gas as:
which, integrated, leads to:
By using identity (11) again, we can rewrite (14) as:
or, furthermore, as:
Thus, we obtain the work done by the gas during a polytropic expansion as:
However, from the ideal gas law we also have that:
where is the mass, and the universal gas constant (for additional information also see Thermodynamics of Ideal Gases ). Therefore, we have that:
and:
By using (19) and (20), the work done from equation (17) becomes:
from which we obtain the work done by the gas during a polytropic expansion also as:
In order to calculate the work done on a gas undergoing a polytropic compression from state to state , we follow a similar reasoning, but this time starting from:
Therefore, equations (17) and (22) can be rewritten in order to express the work done during a polytropic compression as:
and:
respectively. Hence, we obtain that the work done during a polytropic compression can be expressed as:
or as:
Let us now consider the heat supplied during a polytropic expansion. From the first law of thermodynamics we know that the heat added to the system equals the change in internal energy plus the work done by the system :
As the change in internal energy is given by:
where is the mass, and the heat capacity at constant volume (for a more detailed discussion also see Thermodynamics of Ideal Gases ), and also taking into account the expression of the work done during a polytropic expansion from (21), the heat supplied during a polytropic expansion becomes:
which can also be written as:
We know that the universal gas constant relates the heat capacity at constant volume to the heat capacity at constant pressure by:
(for a more detailed discussion also see Thermodynamics of Ideal Gases ). However, from the definition of the heat capacity ratio :
we also have that:
By using the expression of from (34) in equation (32), we get that:
or, furthermore, that:
from which we obtain as:
By using the expression of from (37) in equation (31), we get the heat supplied during a polytropic expansion as:
or, furthermore, as:
Equation (39) leads to:
or, furthermore, to:
Taking into account that (see equation 22), we obtain the heat supplied during a polytropic expansion as:
where is the heat capacity ratio, the polytropic index, and the work done during the expansion.