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A Scenario for Exploring the Relationship between Energy and Free Energy

Page history last edited by Joe Redish 7 years, 1 month ago

BERG > Project NEXUS UMCP > Papers and Presentations


Contributed poster to be presented at AAPT Summer National Meeting, Portland OR, July 2013.


A Scenario for Exploring the Relationship between Energy and Free Energy

A. Daane, B. Geller, V. Sawtelle, R. Scherr, & E. Redish


The energy available to do useful work is different from the total energy in a system. This distinction is particularly relevant to biology and pre-health science students who encounter a disconnect between “energy” as described in their introductory physics courses and “free energy” as described in their biology and chemistry classes. It is also relevant to K-12 teachers who are asked to explain how it is that energy can be “used up” even though the total energy is conserved. The relationship between energy and free energy is made visible when learners are asked to compare two systems having the same total energy but different capacities to do work on their surroundings. Unpacking this scenario requires ideas related to entropy, energy degradation, and the second law of thermodynamics. This poster examines how taking up these ideas can help to reconcile seemingly disconnected concepts about energy.

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