Ideal gas

Ideal gas is a theoretical gas composed of many randomly moving point particles that are not subject to interparticle interactions.

The ideal gas concept is useful because it obeys the ideal gas law, a simplified equation of state, and is amenable to analysis under statistical mechanics. The requirement of zero interaction can often be relaxed if, for example, the interaction is perfectly elastic or regarded as point-like collisions.

Under various conditions of temperature and pressure, many real gases behave qualitatively like an ideal gas where the gas molecules (or atoms for monatomic gas) play the role of the ideal particles. Many gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, noble gases, some heavier gases like carbon dioxide and mixtures such as air, can be treated as ideal gases within reasonable tolerances over a considerable parameter range around standard temperature and pressure.

Generally, a gas behaves more like an ideal gas at higher temperature and lower pressure, as the potential energy due to intermolecular forces becomes less significant compared with the particles’ kinetic energy, and the size of the molecules becomes less significant compared to the empty space between them.

One mole of an ideal gas has a volume of 22.710947 litres at standard temperature and pressure (a temperature of 273.15 K and an absolute pressure of exactly 105 Pa) as defined by IUPAC since 1982.

The ideal gas model tends to fail at lower temperatures or higher pressures, when intermolecular forces and molecular size becomes important. It also fails for most heavy gases, such as many refrigerants, and for gases with strong intermolecular forces, notably water vapor.

At high pressures, the volume of a real gas is often considerably larger than that of an ideal gas. At low temperatures, the pressure of a real gas is often considerably less than that of an ideal gas.

At some point of low temperature and high pressure, real gases undergo a phase transition, such as to a liquid or a solid. The model of an ideal gas, however, does not describe or allow phase transitions. These must be modeled by more complex equations of state. The deviation from the ideal gas behavior can be described by a dimensionless quantity, the compressibility factor, Z.

The ideal gas model has been explored in both the Newtonian dynamics (as in “kinetic theory”) and in quantum mechanics (as a “gas in a box”). The ideal gas model has also been used to model the behavior of electrons in a metal (in the Drude model and the free electron model), and it is one of the most important models in statistical mechanics.

If the pressure of an ideal gas is reduced in a throttling process the temperature of the gas does not change. (If the pressure of a real gas is reduced in a throttling process, its temperature either falls or rises, depending on whether its Joule–Thomson coefficient is positive or negative.)

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