Molecular level presentation

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Kinetic Theory

According to the elementary kinetic theory of matter, the molecules of a substance are in constant motion. This motion depends on the average kinetic energy of molecules, which depends in turn on the temperature of the substance. Furthermore, the collisions between molecules are perfectly elastic except when chemical changes or molecular excitations occur. The concept of heat as the transfer of thermal energy can be explained by considering the molecular structures of a substance.

See Main Article Kinetic theory

Intermolecular Forces

In general, the intermolecular forces of a solid are greater than those of a liquid. This trend can be observed when looking at the force it takes to separate a solid as compared to that required to separate a liquid. Also, the molecules in a solid are much more confined to their position in the solid’s structure as compared to the molecules of a liquid, thereby affecting their ability to move. A gas differs from both a solid and a liquid in that its kinetic energy is great enough to overcome the intermolecular forces, causing the molecules to separate without restraint. The intermolecular forces in a gas decrease as the distance between the molecules increases. Both gravitational and electrical forces contribute to intermolecular forces; for many solids and liquids, the electrical forces are on the order of 1029 times greater than the gravitational force.

See Main Article Intermolecular forces

Boltzmann Transport Equation

For a nonequilibrium system, the mean free path theory is no longer valid, and the Boltzmann equation should be used to describe the molecular velocity distribution in the system. For low-density nonreacting monatomic gas mixtures, the random molecular movement can be described by the molecular velocity distribution function {f_i}({\mathbf{c}},{\mathbf{x}},t), where {\mathbf{c}} is the particle velocity and {\mathbf{x}} is the position vector in the mixture. At time t, the probable number of molecules of the ith species that are located in the volume element dx at position x and have velocity within the range d{\mathbf{c}} about {\mathbf{c}} is {f_i}({\mathbf{c}},{\mathbf{x}},t)d{\mathbf{c}}d{\mathbf{x}}.

See Main Article Boltzmann transport equation

Cohesion and Adhesion

Cohesion is the intermolecular attractive force between molecules of the same kind or phase. Adhesion is the intermolecular attractive force between molecules of a different kind or phase.

See Main Article Cohesion and adhesion

Enthalpy and Energy

Phase change processes are always accompanied by a change of enthalpy, which we will now consider at the molecular level. Phase change phenomena can be viewed as the destruction or formation of intermolecular bonds as the result of changes in intermolecular forces. The intermolecular forces between the molecules in a solid are greater than those between molecules in a liquid, which are in turn greater than those between molecules in a gas. This reflects the greater distance between molecules in a gas than in a liquid, and the greater distance between molecules in a liquid than in a solid. As a result, the intermolecular bonds in a solid are stronger than those in a liquid. In a gas, which has the weakest intermolecular forces of all three phases, intermolecular bonds do not exist between the widely separated molecules.

See Main Article Enthalpy and energy


Faghri, A., Zhang, Y., and Howell, J. R., 2010, Advanced Heat and Mass Transfer, Global Digital Press, Columbia, MO.

Further Reading

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