Gas Laws (Part One)

in Physics

The simple structure of gases makes them readily adaptable to mathematical analysis from which has evolved a detailed theory of the behavior of gases. This is called the kinetic theory of gases. The theory assumes that a body of gas is composed of identical molecules which behave like minute elastic spheres, spaced relatively far apart and continuously in motion.

The degree of molecular motion is dependent upon the temperature of the gas. Since the molecules are continuously striking against each other and against the walls of the container, an increase in temperature with the resulting increase in molecular motion causes a corresponding increase in the number of collisions between the molecules. The increased number of collisions results in an increase in pressure because a greater number of molecules strike against the walls of the container in a given unit of time.

If the container were an open vessel, the gas would expand and overflow from the container. However, if the container is sealed and possesses elasticity (such as a rubber balloon), the increased pressure causes the container to expand. For instance, when making a long drive on a hot day, the pressure in the tires of an automobile increases, and a tire which appeared to be somewhat “soft” in cool morning temperature may appear normal at a higher midday temperature.

Such phenomena as these have been explained and set forth in the form of laws pertaining to gases and tend to support the kinetic theory.