An isothermal ideal gas expansion produces maximum work if carried out reversibly and less work if friction or other losses are present. One way of generating “other losses” is if the force of the gas on the piston is not balanced with the opposing force during the expansion, as shown in part (b) below. Consider a piston/cylinder containing one mole of nitrogen at 5 bars and 300 K is expanded isothermally to 1 bar.
(a) Suppose that the expansion is reversible. How much work could be obtained and how much heat is transferred? What is the entropy change of the gas?
(b) Suppose the isothermal expansion is carried out irreversibly by removing a piston stop and expanding against the atmosphere at 1 bar. Suppose that heat transfer is provided to permit this to occur isothermally. How much work is done by the gas and how much heat is transferred? What is the entropy change of the gas? How much work is lost compared to a reversible isothermal process and what percent of the reversible work is obtained (the efficiency)?
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