Bluffton University

NSC111: Physics/Earth/Space
Resource page: Thermodynamics

II. Thermodynamic systems

Energy transfer is studied in three types of systems:

Open systems Open systems can exchange both matter and energy with an outside system. They are portions of larger systems and in intimate contact with the larger system. Your body is an open system.
Closed systems Closed systems exchange energy but not matter with an outside system. Though they are typically portions of larger systems, they are not in complete contact. The Earth is essentially a closed system; it obtains lots of energy from the Sun but the exchange of matter with the outside is almost zero.
Isolated systems Isolated systems can exchange neither energy nor matter with an outside system. While they may be portions of larger systems, they do not communicate with the outside in any way. The physical universe is an isolated system; a closed thermos bottle is essentially an isolated system (though its insulation is not perfect).

Heat can be transferred between open systems and between closed systems, but not between isolated systems.

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Copyright © 2001 by Daniel J. Berger. This work may be copied without limit if its use is to be for non-profit educational purposes. Such copies may be by any method, present or future. The author requests only that this statement accompany all such copies. All rights to publication for profit are retained by the author.