Motivation for and History of the Carnot Cycle

  • Imagine a process that involves no friction.
  • Any expansions and compressions occur at infinitesimally slow rates.
  • Heat transfer only occurs between bodies with infinitesimal temperature difference.
  • This process is completely reversible, internally and externally.
  • It is a cyclic process that has the highest efficiency of any cyclic process operating between the same hot and cold reservoirs.
In 1824, a French engineer named Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot (1796-1832) proposed such a process. This cycle is called the

Carnot Cycle

and its efficiency is the standard against which the efficiency of all real cycles is compared.
In this lesson, we will define and interpret the Carnot Cycle for both closed and open systems.
We will discuss Carnot Power Cycles (HE's), Carnot Refrigerators and Carnot Heat Pumps. We will also present the Carnot Principles and how they relate to the Clausius and Kelvin-Planck Statements of the 2nd Law.
Roll your mouse over this box to close.
Join Learn Thermodynamics Advantage
  • Download Data Tables
  • Download Study Aids
  • Homework problem hints and answers
  • Get Help from Dr. B in the LT Blog
  • 120 day membership

Get it ALL for $5 US

Ch 6, Lesson E, Page 1 - Motivation for and History of the Carnot Cycle