Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Conservation of energy and energy deficiency

Thermodynamics is a fundamental branch of physics that deals with the study of energy and its transformation. Watch video to learn more.

The first and second laws of thermodynamics are fundamental principles that govern the behavior of energy in physical systems.

The first law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. The second law states that the direction of any process is towards a decrease in the quality of energy and that it is impossible to construct a device that operates in a cycle and produces no effect other than the transfer of heat from a lower-temperature body to a higher-temperature body. This means that any energy conversion process will result in some energy loss, typically in the form of waste heat.

The thermal efficiency of a heat engine or refrigerator is an important factor in energy conversion. The efficiency of a heat engine is defined as the ratio of network output to heat input and is limited by the second law of thermodynamics. The efficiency of a refrigerator or heat pump is evaluated by the coefficient of performance, which is defined as the desired output divided by the energy input.

In summary, the laws of thermodynamics play a critical role in understanding energy conversion and the limitations of physical systems. The conservation of energy and the quality of energy are important concepts to consider when designing energy conversion processes.

Review questions:

  • What is the first law of thermodynamics, and how does it relate to energy conservation?
  • How does the second law of thermodynamics limit the efficiency of a heat engine?
  • What is the coefficient of performance, and how is it used to evaluate the efficiency of a refrigerator or heat pump?
This article is from the free online

Sustainable Building and Energy Efficiency Development

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now