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Difference Between Adiabatic and Isothermal

Adiabatic Vs Isothermal

In the realm of Physics, specifically in the subject thermodynamics, there are two often discussed concepts that are frequently used in industrial practical application. These concepts are the adiabatic and isothermal processes.

These two processes are the opposite sides of the coin. They are the poles located at opposite ends so to speak. Firstly, otherwise known as an isocaloric process, the adiabatic process is when there’s no transfer of heat from or towards the fluid being worked on. Besides, adiabatic would mean impassable if defined literally. Thus, heat is not able to penetrate.

When there’s an actual gain or heat loss in the surroundings then the process is termed adiabatic. Because the temperature can change in an adiabatic process due to internal system variations, the gas in the system may tend to cool down when expanding. In this connection, it would also mean that its pressure is significantly lesser compared to the other process (isothermal) at a given volume.

As mentioned, the process at the other extreme end that permits transfer of heat to the surroundings, and thus, making the overall temperature constant (do not change) is called an isothermal process. If you come to think of it, the word isothermal when interpreted literally would mean ‘iso’ (the same), ‘thermal’ (temperature). Hence, there is the same temperature.

In a thermodynamic system, the two main processes involved are adiabatic or isothermal. It is regarded as the former when the transformation (fluctuations or variations in temperature) are fast enough that no heat was significantly transferred between the outside environment and the system. When the transformation is very slow in that same system then the process is isothermal because the temperature of the system remains the same through the exchange of heat with the outer environment.

1. In an isothermal process, there is an exchange of heat between the system and the outside environment unlike in adiabatic processes wherein there is none.

2. In an isothermal process, the temperature of the material involved remains the same unlike in adiabatic processes wherein the temperature of the material being compressed may raise.

3. In an isothermal process, heat can be added or released from the system just to keep the same temperature while in an adiabatic process, there’s no heat added or released because maintaining constant temperature will not matter.

4. In an isothermal process, the transformation is slow while in an adiabatic process it is fast.


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  • 17 Comments

    1. Thank you for providing this wonderful article. You just took something that I didn’t understand through years of different science classes and made it easy enough for me to understand in 60 seconds! Thanks again!

    2. I have understood the clear meaning of tha science term… It is the best website…

    3. Please tell me in which process work done is more -adiabatic or isothermal

    4. very usefull website now i have understood the exact meaning between them

    5. It is one of the best way to gain knowledge… Thank you…

    6. A very useful explanation. Thank you so much.

    7. It is a good way to get knowledge… thanks to all knowledge contributors……

    8. Thank you so much now I have understand the real meaning of this two term.

    9. How come the temperature remains constant while the heat exchange occurs in isothermal process?. On the other hand, the temperature of the fluid can be changed without adding any heat?. Finally, please provide us with the application in our engineering field for the two processes.

    10. Thank you so much

    11. In adiabatic process how temperature undergo changes. ? Please explain

    12. How temperature changes during adiabatic process. ?

    13. When there’s an actual gain or heat loss in the surroundings then the process is termed adiabatic.

      Note: The above sentence is of start of paragraph 3 above. Sense of above sentence seems, contradicting the over-sense of topic. So, add “not” after there’s as follows:

      When there’s not an actual gain or heat loss in the surroundings then the process is termed adiabatic.

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