Distinguishing Temperature, Heat, and Internal Energy
Using the kinetic theory, a clear distinction between these three properties can be made.
- Temperature is related to the kinetic energies of the molecules of a material. It is the average kinetic energy of individual molecules.
- Internal energy refers to the total energy of all the molecules within the object. It is an extensive property, therefore when two equal-mass hot ingots of steel may have the same temperature, but two of them have twice as much internal energy as one does.
- Finally, heat is the amount of energy flowing from one body to another spontaneously due to their temperature difference.
It must be added, when a temperature difference does exist heat flows spontaneously from the warmer system to the colder system. Thus, if a 5 kg cube of steel at 100°C is placed in contact with a 500 kg cube of steel at 20°C, heat flows from the cube at 300°C to the cube at 20°C even though the internal energy of the 20°C cube is much greater because there is so much more of it.
A particularly important concept is thermodynamic equilibrium. In general, when two objects are brought into thermal contact, heat will flow between them until they come into equilibrium with each other.