in Physics

Temperature is a dominant factor affecting the physical properties of fluids. It is of particular concern when calculating changes in the state of gases.

The four temperature scales used extensively are the Centigrade, the Fahrenheit, the absolute or Kelvin, and the Rankine scales. The Centigrade scale is constructed by using the freezing and boiling points of water, under standard conditions, as fixed points of zero and 100, respectively, with 100 equal divisions between. The Fahrenheit scale uses 32° as the freezing point of water and 212° as the boiling point, and has 180 equal divisions between. The absolute or Kelvin scale is constructed with its zero point established as minus 273°C, meaning 273° below the freezing point of water. The relationships of the other fixed points of the scales are shown in Figure 3-31.

Figure 3-31. Comparison of temperature scales.

Figure 3-31. Comparison of temperature scales.

When working with temperatures, always make sure which system of measurement is being used and know how to convert from one to another. The conversion formulas are as follows:

  • Degrees Fahrenheit = (1.8 × Degrees Celsius) + 32
  • Degrees Celsius = (Degrees Fahrenheit – 32) × 5⁄9
  • Degrees Kelvin = Degrees Celsius + 273
  • Degrees Rankine = Degrees Fahrenheit + 460

For purposes of calculations, the Rankine scale is commonly used to convert Fahrenheit to absolute. For Fahrenheit readings above zero, 460° is added. Thus, 72°F equals 460° plus 72°, or 532° absolute. If the Fahrenheit reading is below zero, it is subtracted from 460°. Thus −40°F equals 460° minus 40°, or 420° absolute. It should be stressed that the Rankine scale does not indicate absolute temperature readings in accordance with the Kelvin scale, but these conversions may be used for the calculations of changes in the state of gases.

The Kelvin and Centigrade scales are used more extensively in scientific work; therefore, some technical manuals may use these scales in giving directions and operating instructions. The Fahrenheit scale is commonly used in the United States, and most people are familiar with it. Therefore, the Fahrenheit scale is used in most areas of this website.