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MEng Chemical Engineering / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Thermodynamics

Unit code CHEN10081
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science
Available as a free choice unit? No


Thermodynamics was born in the 19th century to improve the efficiency of engines and thus increase the amount of useful work obtained from a given source of energy (combustion of coal at those times). The name itself denotes power developed from heat (energy). The theoretical framework of Thermodynamics is based on some fundamental postulates, or laws, that were originally developed for steam engines, but have a general validity. The legitimacy of these laws cannot be proved mathematically, but instead lies in the absence of contrasting experimental evidence. The mathematical framework and associated physics built on these fundamental postulates are applied to many practical problems of Chemical Engineering and constitute main ingredient of the present course.


The following is the list of the main topics covered in this unit:


  • Introduction to thermodynamic systems and states of matter.
  • The First Law of Thermodynamics. Heat, work, and internal energy.
  • Enthalpy and heat capacities.
  • Reversible and irreversible processes.
  • PVT behaviour of pure substances. Phase diagrams.
  • Heat associated to physical transformations. Steam tables.
  • Energy and mass balance for open systems.
  • Application of energy and mass balance to engineering devices: turbines, compressors, throttling valves, nozzles, mixing chambers, heat exchangers.
  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Kelvin-Planck and Clausius statements.
  • Heat engines and thermal efficiency.
  • The Carnot cycle and principles.
  • Entropy and the increase of entropy principle.
  • Entropy balance for closed and open systems.
  • Properties of T-s, P-h and h-s diagrams.
  • Isentropic efficiency of engineering devices.
  • Compression and expansion. Reciprocating and centrifugal compression. Adiabatic and polytropic systems. Multistage compression.
  • Cascade refrigeration.
  • Gas turbines: the Brayton cycle.
  • The Rankine cycle and the reheat Rankine cycle.



This unit aims to connect the key principles and laws of classical thermodynamics to processes and chemical engineering devices involving heat and work transfer.

It will give students a basic understanding of the postulates of classical Thermodynamics and how to apply them to open and closed systems.


Learning outcomes

Define a thermodynamic system in terms of physico-chemical properties and boundary conditions.

Develop a fundamental understanding of internal energy, heat, work, enthalpy and entropy.

 Apply mass and energy conservation principles to closed and open systems.

Interpret phase diagrams and thermodynamic tables of pure substances and apply them to design chemical engineering devices.

Perform basic calculations to estimate the heat associated to phase transformations.

Apply energy and entropy balances to analyse the performance of heat engines and refrigerators.

Calculate the efficiency of thermodynamic cycles.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures provide fundamental aspects supporting the critical learning of the main principles of Thermodynamics as well as their application to problems of practical interest (all of these will be available online).

Tutorials allow the opportunity to immediately apply new fundamental concepts.

Students are expected to expand the concepts presented in the lectures by additional reading (suggested in the Indicative Reading List or proposed along the semester). Past exam papers and coursework with model answers and extra problems (discussed in the lectures or proposed in the lecture notes) are made available online to students in order to consolidate their learning process and further stimulate their interest to the discipline.

Blackboard is employed to provide lecture notes, additional materials, feedback on problems and examples, feedback on coursework and exams, model answers of past exam papers and coursework. A discussion board provides a basis to discuss topics related to the material presented in the lectures. Additionally, videos made by the unit leader on specific topics are also posted on Blackboard.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

For each assessment

Recommended reading

1) Patti A, Lecture notes, distributed to students on the first day of the course.

2) Çengel YA, Boles MA and Kanoglu M, Thermodynamics: An Engineering Approach, 7th edition (SI units), McGraw-Hill, 2011, ISBN 9780071311113.

3) Çengel YA and Boles MA, Property Tables Booklet to accompany Thermodynamics: An Engineering Approach, 7th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2010. ISBN: 9780077359997.

4) Smith JM, Van Ness HC and Abbott MM, Introduction to Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, 7thEdition, McGraw-Hill, 2005. ISBN: 9780071247085, 9780073104454

5) Atkins PW and De Paula J, Elements of Physical Chemistry, 6th Edition, Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780199608119.

6) Elliott JR and Lira CT, Introductory Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, 2nd Edition, Prentice Hall International Series in the Physical and Chemical Engineering Sciences, ISBN: 9780132756242.

7) Koretsky MD, Engineering and Chemical Thermodynamics, 2nd Edition, Wiley, 2013. ISBN: 9780470259610

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Antonios Anastasiou Unit coordinator
Andrew Masters Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.

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