Temperature - In physics, temperature is a physical property of a system that underlies the common notions of hot and cold; something that feels hotter generally has the higher temperature. Temperature is one of the principal parameters of thermodynamics. If no heat flow occurs between two objects, the objects have the same temperature; otherwise heat flows from the hotter object to the colder object. This is the content of the zeroth law of thermodynamics. On the microscopic scale, temperature can be defined as the average energy in each degree of freedom in the particles in a system. Because temperature is a statistical property, a system must contain a few particles for the question as to its temperature to make any sense. For a solid, this energy is found in the vibrations of its atoms about their equilibrium positions. In an ideal monatomic gas, energy is found in the translational motions of the particles; with molecular gases, vibrational and rotational motions also provide thermodynamic degrees of freedom.
Temperature is measured with thermometers that may be calibrated to a variety of temperature scales. In most of the world (except for Belize, Myanmar, Liberia and the United States), the Celsius scale is used for most temperature measuring purposes. The entire scientific world (these countries included) measures temperature using the Celsius scale and thermodynamic temperature using the Kelvin scale, which is just the Celsius scale shifted downwards so that 0 K= -273.15 °C, or absolute zero. Many engineering fields in the U.S., notably high-tech and US federal specifications (civil and military), also use the kelvin and degrees Celsius scales. Other engineering fields in the U.S. also rely upon the Rankine scale (a shifted Fahrenheit scale) when working in thermodynamic-related disciplines such as combustion.
Intuitively, temperature is the measurement of how hot or cold something is, although the most immediate way in which we can measure this, by feeling it, is unreliable, resulting in the phenomenon of felt air temperature, which can differ at varying degrees from actual temperature. On the molecular level, temperature is the result of the motion of particles which make up a substance. Temperature increases as the energy of this motion increases. The motion may be the translational motion of the particle, or the internal energy of the particle due to molecular vibration or the excitation of an electron energy level. Although very specialized laboratory equipment is required to directly detect the translational thermal motions, thermal collisions by atoms or molecules with small particles suspended in a fluid produces Brownian motion that can be seen with an ordinary microscope. The thermal motions of atoms are very fast and temperatures close to absolute zero are required to directly observe them. For instance, when scientists at the NIST achieved a record-setting low temperature of 700 nK (1 nK = 10-9 K) in 1994, they used optical lattice laser equipment to adiabatically cool caesium atoms. They then turned off the entrapment lasers and directly measured atom velocities of 7 mm per second in order to calculate their temperature.
Molecules, such as O2, have more degrees of freedom than single atoms: they can have rotational and vibrational motions as well as translational motion. An increase in temperature will cause the average translational energy to increase. It will also cause the energy associated with vibrational and rotational modes to increase. Thus a diatomic gas, with extra degrees of freedom rotation and vibration, will require a higher energy input to change the temperature by a certain amount, i.e. it will have a higher heat capacity than a monatomic gas.
The process of cooling involves removing energy from a system. When there is no more energy able to be removed, the system is said to be at absolute zero, which is the point on the thermodynamic (absolute) temperature scale where all kinetic motion in the particles comprising matter ceases and they are at complete rest in the "classic" (non-quantum mechanical) sense. By definition, absolute zero is a temperature of precisely 0 kelvins (-273.15 °C or -459.68 °F).
Temperature plays an important role in almost all fields of science, including physics, geology, chemistry, and biology. Many physical properties of materials including the phase (solid, liquid, gaseous or plasma), density, solubility, vapor pressure, and electrical conductivity depend on the temperature. Temperature also plays an important role in determining the rate and extent to which chemical reactions occur. This is one reason why the human body has several elaborate mechanisms for maintaining the temperature at 37 °C, since temperatures only a few degrees higher can result in harmful reactions with serious consequences. Temperature also controls the type and quantity of thermal radiation emitted from a surface. One application of this effect is the incandescent light bulb, in which a tungsten filament is electrically heated to a temperature at which significant quantities of visible light are emitted.
The formal properties of temperature follow from its mathematical definition (see below for the zeroth law definition and the second law definition) and are studied in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Contrary to other thermodynamic quantities such as entropy and heat, whose microscopic definitions are valid even far away from thermodynamic equilibrium, temperature being an average energy per particle can only be defined at thermodynamic equilibrium, or at least local thermodynamic equilibrium (see below). As a system receives heat, its temperature rises; similarly, a loss of heat from the system tends to decrease its temperature (at the-uncommon-exception of negative temperature).
When two systems are at the same temperature, no heat transfer occurs between them. When a temperature difference does exist, heat will tend to move from the higher-temperature system to the lower-temperature system, until they are at thermal equilibrium. This heat transfer may occur via conduction, convection or radiation or combinations of them (see heat for additional discussion of the various mechanisms of heat transfer) and some ions may vary. Temperature is also related to the amount of internal energy and enthalpy of a system: the higher the temperature of a system, the higher its internal energy and enthalpy.
Temperature is an intensive property of a system, meaning that it does not depend on the system size, the amount or type of material in the system, the same as for the pressure and density. By contrast, mass, volume, and entropy are extensive properties, and depend on the amount of material in the system.