A new way to present the important but difficult topic of statistical mechanics to engineers

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Conference Proceeding
ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Proceedings (IMECE), 2013, 5
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As a subject in an engineering course, Engineering Thermodynamics has earned a reputation for being difficult to understand. Quite often students practice many problems until they can do the assigned tasks, but they still feel mystified by concepts such as entropy. Even though we may use them competently, energy, enthalpy and temperature are not necessarily well understood at a concept level. Statistical Mechanics provides an excellent way of understanding the concepts more fundamentally but the traditional mathematical derivations in Statistical Mechanics require considerable time and effort before a learner gains the comfort of familiarity. Various approaches using spread-sheets to construct combinatorial illustrative examples have been published. An approach based on molecular dynamic simulation is presented in this paper, in which comparisons between actual outcomes of simulations based solely on Newtonian mechanics are compared with the probability based models. Accordingly, this approach allows explanations which meet the objective of demystifying some of the concepts that have hitherto been the bane of undergraduate thermodynamics. Copyright © 2013 by ASME.
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