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Q & A: quantum atoms and gas pressure

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Most recent answer: 04/13/2014
Q:
If electrons can orbit a nucleus at only certain energy levels(orbitals), how does the pressure of a gas increase by adding heat? It sort of implies that the gas molecules would only increase their pressure in steps and would be limited. In other words, can an electron absorb energy in an orbital and use that energy to speed up the atom?
- Jeff Sokal (age 57)
Jeffersonville, Vermont
A:

Many ordinary ones are nearly ideal. The pressure in an ideal gas doesn't depend on the internal states of the atoms or molecules. It just comes from the overall motions of those molecules or atoms. That sort of motion has essentially a continuum of possible states, not like the quantized internal levels. 

Energy does get traded between the internal modes and the overall motuion modes when the gas atoms or molecules collide. So pretty soon the gas reaches equilibrium, where the all the diferent modes have the same temperature. So there is that iportant connection.

Mike W.


(published on 04/13/2014)

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