Temperature as a Measure of the Distribution of Particles Over Energy States: Would a Negative Absolute Temperature be Very Cold, or Very Hot?©
Arthur Ferguson
Department of Chemistry
Worcester State College
48806 Chandler Street
Wocester, MA 01602-2597
United States
mail to: AFerguson@worcester.edu

This exercise explores the implications of the Boltzmann Equation for the population of energy states as a function of temperature. It uses the graphing power of Mathcad to provide a concrete, visual, presentation of relative population of the first three vibrational states of carbon monoxide from 0 K to very high temperatures and focuses attention on what happens to the relative populations of these states over that range, especially at the extremes of infinite and zero absolute temperature. It then seeks to increase the user's understanding of the Boltzmann Equation by exploring the implications of hypothetical negative absolute temperatures and asking the question ┬ŁWould negative absolute temperature be very hot or very cold?
Editor's Commentary
Audiences: Upper-Division Undergraduate
Pedagogies: Computer-Based Learning
Domains: Physical Chemistry
Topics: Mathematics / Symbolic Mathematics, Statistical Mechanics, Thermodynamics
File NameDescriptionSoftware TypeSoftware Version
Boltzmann2001i.mcd JCE Mathcad 2001i Computational Document Mathcad 2001i
Boltzmann8.mcd JCE Mathcad 8 Computational Document Mathcad 8
Boltzmann.pdf Read-Only Document
JCE JCE Subscribers only: name and password or institutional IP number access required.
Ferguson, Arthur J. Chem. Educ. 2004, 81 (4), 607
©Copyright 2004 Journal of Chemical Education