Interactive Self-Study Module: Reversible and Irreversible Expansion/Compression Processes


This module uses screencasts and interactive simulations to explain the differences between reversible and irreversible expansion and compression processes. Example problems are provided to allow the user to test themselves. Your retention of material in this module will increase if you write down reasons for your answers to ConcepTests, questions in screencasts, and questions to answer before using interactive simulation, and you try to solve the example problems before watching the screencast solutions. We suggest using the learning resources in the following order:

  1. Attempt to answer the multiple choice ConcepTest and solve the example problem before watching the screencasts or working with the simulations.
  2. Watch the screencasts that describe expansion and compression processes and answer the questions within the screencasts.
  3. Review important equations for reversible and irreversible expansion/compression processes.
  4. Use the interactive simulation to further understand reversible and irreversible processes.
  5. Use the quiz interactive simulation to test your understanding by identifying isothermal and adiabatic curves on P-T and P-V diagrams.
  6. Try to solve the example problems before watching the solutions in the screencasts.
  7. Answer the ConcepTests.
  8. Look at the list of key points, but only after you try to list the key points yourself. 
  • Expansion and compression processes are used in many engineering applications.
  • This module is intended for a thermodynamics course.
Before studying this module, you should be able to:
After studying this module, you should be able to:
  • Explain why a reversible adiabatic expansion generates more work than an irreversible adiabatic expansion between the same initial and final pressures.
  • Explain why a reversible compression requires less work than an irreversible compression between the same initial and final pressures.
  • Given three curves, identify which curve is reversible, which is irreversible, and which is isothermal for expansions and compressions on P-T, H-P, and H-S, plots.
  • Determine whether a process is reversible or irreversible.