Thermodynamic Processes in Otto Cycle

Otto Cycle – Processes

Otto Cycle - PV Diagram
pV diagram of Otto Cycle. The area bounded by the complete cycle path represents the total work that can be done during one cycle.

In an ideal Otto cycle, the system executing the cycle undergoes a series of four internally reversible processes: two isentropic (reversible adiabatic) processes alternated with two isochoric processes:

  1. Isentropic compression (compression stroke) – The gas (fuel-air mixture) is compressed adiabatically from state 1 to state 2, as the piston moves from bottom dead center to top dead center. The surroundings do work on the gas, increasing its internal energy (temperature) and compressing it. On the other hand the entropy remains unchanged. The changes in volumes and its the ratio (V1 / V2) is known as the compression ratio.
  2. Isochoric compression (ignition phase) – In this phase (between state 2 and state 3) there is a constant-volume (the piston is at rest ) heat transfer to the air from an external source while the piston is at rest at top dead center. This process is intended to represent the ignition of the fuel–air mixture injected into the chamber and the subsequent rapid burning. The pressure rises and the ratio (P3 / P2) is known as the “explosion ratio”.
  3. Isentropic expansion (power stroke) – The gas expands adiabatically from state 3 to state 4, as the piston moves from top dead center to bottom dead center. The gas does work on the surroundings (piston) and loses an amount of internal energy equal to the work that leaves the system. Again the entropy remains unchanged. The volume ratio (V4 / V3) is known as the isentropic expansion ration, but for Otto cycle, it is equal to the compression ratio.
  4. Isochoric decompression (exhaust stroke) – In this phase the cycle completes by a constant-volume process in which heat is rejected from the air while the piston is at bottom dead center. The working gas pressure drops instantaneously from point 4 to point 1. The exhaust valve opens at point 4. The exhaust stroke is directly after this decompression. As the piston moves from bottom dead center (point 1) to top dead center (point 0) with the exhaust valve opened, the gaseous mixture is vented to the atmosphere and the process starts anew.

During the Otto cycle, work is done on the gas by the piston between states 1 and 2 (isentropic compression). Work is done by the gas on the piston between stages 3 and 4 (isentropic expansion). The difference between the work done by the gas and the work done on the gas is the net work produced by the cycle and it corresponds to the area enclosed by the cycle curve. The work produced by the cycle times the rate of the cycle (cycles per second) is equal to the power produced by the Otto engine.

Isentropic Process

An isentropic process is a thermodynamic process, in which the entropy of the fluid or gas remains constant. It means the isentropic process is a special case of an adiabatic process in which there is no transfer of heat or matter. It is a reversible adiabatic process. The assumption of no heat transfer is very important, since we can use the adiabatic approximation only in very rapid processes.

Isentropic Process and the First Law

For a closed system, we can write the first law of thermodynamics in terms of enthalpy:

dH = dQ + Vdp


dH = TdS + Vdp

Isentropic process (dQ = 0):

dH = Vdp     →     W = H2 – H1     →     H2 – H1 = Cp (T2 – T1)    (for ideal gas)

Isentropic Process of the Ideal Gas

The isentropic process (a special case of adiabatic process) can be expressed with the ideal gas law as:

pVκ = constant


p1V1κ = p2V2κ

in which κ = cp/cv is the ratio of the specific heats (or heat capacities) for the gas. One for constant pressure (cp) and one for constant volume (cv). Note that, this ratio κ  = cp/cv is a factor in determining the speed of sound in a gas and other adiabatic processes.

Isochoric Process

An isochoric process is a thermodynamic process, in which the volume of the closed system remains constant (V = const). It describes the behavior of gas inside the container, that cannot be deformed. Since the volume remains constant, the heat transfer into or out of the system does not the p∆V work, but only changes the internal energy (the temperature) of the system.

Isochoric Process and the First Law

The classical form of the first law of thermodynamics is the following equation:

dU = dQ – dW

In this equation dW is equal to dW = pdV and is known as the boundary work. Then:

dU = dQ  – pdV

In isochoric process and the ideal gas, all of heat added to the system will be used to increase the internal energy.

Isochoric process (pdV = 0):

dU = dQ    (for ideal gas)

dU = 0 = Q – W    →     W = Q      (for ideal gas)

Isochoric Process of the Ideal Gas

The isochoric process can be expressed with the ideal gas law as:

isochoric process - equation 1


isochoric process - equation 2

On a p-V diagram, the process occurs along a horizontal line that has the equation V = constant.

See also: Guy-Lussac’s Law

Isentropic Process - characteristics
Isentropic process – main characteristics
Isochoric process - main characteristics
Isochoric process – main characteristics
Nuclear and Reactor Physics:
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Advanced Reactor Physics:

  1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
  2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
  3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2. 
  4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

See above:

Otto Cycle