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Engineering Physics

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Engineering Physics

Engineering physics is the area of engineering that concerns the practical application of physics to industry, science, and technology.

Areas covered by engineering physics

Engineering physics includes everything from biology to maths and technology. Exploring several examples, we will see why physics plays an important role in solving engineering problems. Areas related to engineering physics include:

  • Computing.
  • Biology.
  • Medical science.
  • Material science.
  • Chemistry.
  • Physics.
  • Mathematics.
  • Nuclear science.
  • Electrical engineering.
  • Electronic engineering.
  • Mechanical engineering.
  • Thermal engineering and thermodynamics.
  • Aerospace engineering and aeronautics.

In engineering physics, a large part of the first years in A-Levels is dedicated to the dynamics of movement, and thermal engineering and thermodynamics. The importance of physics in these areas and in engineering generally is due to physics describing the mechanisms by which the universe and its diverse systems work together.

The dynamics of movement

Movements and their dynamics are one of the main aspects of engineering physics. The study of movement is important because of its wide range of applications in areas such as robotics, space trajectories, particle physics, and any object in motion.

The dynamics of movement uses a simplification of the objects moving and their masses to model them. The model allows us to study how the forces acting on an object affect its movements. Here are some examples of the problems that can be solved by applying the dynamics of movement:

  • Rocket launch trajectories or satellite orbits in aerospace engineering.
  • The movement of robotic arms in industry and other applications.
  • Fluid dynamics in aerospace, aeronautics, and naval technology.

Thermal engineering and thermodynamics

Thermal engineering and thermodynamics study devices that use heat to produce work or use work to modify the temperature of an object or place. Thermal engineering and thermodynamics have a wide range of applications, ranging from engines to energy production and including even biological and chemical processes where energy is involved.

Rotational dynamics

Rotational dynamics is the area of movement dynamics that studies objects moving in a circular or semi-circular path. Rotational dynamics as an area of study includes:

  • Angular displacement, including velocity, acceleration, and angular acceleration.
  • The analysis of the energy (kinetic and potential), the work, and the mechanical power of an object in rotational movement.
  • The analogy between straight-line motion and circular motion.
  • Torque and the moment of inertia.

Engineering Physics. Rotational dynamics. StudySmarter.Figure 1. The flying chairs on a carousel are a classic example of rotational dynamics. Source: Tetsumo, Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Thermodynamics and engines

Thermodynamics is the branch of physics that studies the exchanges of energy in a system. Energy is exchanged as heat or work, causing changes in the system’s temperature. Energy and work changes can cause compression and expansion movements in some gas systems.

Thermal engines

Engines are systems that use energy to produce work or vice versa. A thermal engine uses or produces heat. Engines can also produce work to modify an object’s energy. See the following examples of engines using energy or modifying an object’s energy:

  • A car engine uses gas to produce combustion. The combustion is then converted into movement, using a complex mechanical system that links the engine with the car’s wheels.
  • A freezer engine uses electrical energy to produce work and extract thermal energy from inside the freezer, thus making it colder than the exterior.

Engines are modelled by thermodynamics, using the work and energy produced and/or absorbed by them.

The relationship between thermodynamics and engines

Engines, such as those found in cars, power plants, or freezers, are modelled as a system that uses or extracts energy in the form of heat. The modelling of an engine, in which thermodynamics is used, ignores many parts of the system to simplify its study. It focuses on how much energy is consumed to produce a certain amount of work.

Thermodynamic modelling is useful in a range of areas, such as those listed below:

  • Power plant modelling, including thermal power plants, nuclear plants, and others.
  • Thermal exchange devices, such as simple freezing devices (freezers) or more complex ones like the cooling system used in rockets.
  • Thermodynamic cycles of combustion engines, such as diesel engines, Stirling engines, etc.

Engineering physics. Thermodynamics. Power plant. StudySmarter.Figure 2. Power plants are an example of engines that can be modelled by thermodynamics. Source: Public domain.

The laws of thermodynamics

The study of thermodynamics has been supported by theoretical models that simplify the real objects’ exchange of energy and work. In that way, important results have been achieved that are better known as the ‘laws of thermodynamics’. These laws, which describe the relationship between work, heat, and temperature, are universally applied to every object that exists.

There are four laws of thermodynamics:

  1. The zeroth law: the law of thermal equilibrium.
  2. The first law: the law that describes the internal energy of a substance.
  3. The second law: the entropy law of irreversibility.
  4. The third law: the law of the constant value of entropy in a system at absolute zero.

Engineering Physics - Key takeaways

  • Engineering physics is the area of physics that focuses on its practical applications.
  • Engineering physics is not based only on physics but also on areas such as biology, electronics, computer science, mathematics, mechanics, chemistry, and others.
  • Two areas of great importance in engineering physics are the dynamics of movement and thermal engineering and thermodynamics.
  • Thermodynamics and engines are a branch of thermal engineering that studies the energy and work exchanges of a system. The modelling of an engine uses thermodynamics.
  • Rotational dynamics is a branch of movement dynamics, which studies the movement of objects in a circular path. Rotational dynamics is applied in areas such as aerospace engineering and robotics.

Frequently Asked Questions about Engineering Physics

Physics describes the mechanisms by which the universe and its diverse systems work together. That knowledge, expressed in laws and theories, can be applied in many areas of science and engineering. For instance, in mechanical engineering, the laws of motion and forces are used to model and create diverse machines and devices.

Engineering physics is the area of engineering that concerns the practical application of physics to industry, science, and technology. An Engineering Physics major uses their knowledge to solve problems in a range of areas in technology, science, and society.

Engineering physics covers many topics, being related to areas such as mathematics, computing, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, medicine, energy, chemistry, materials, civil engineering, and many more.

Physics, its theory and solutions, are used in every area of engineering. Nuclear physics, for instance, has had a great impact on medicine by providing techniques to scan internal parts of the body, combat cancer, and sterilise objects.

Final Engineering Physics Quiz

Question

What is engineering physics?

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Answer

The area of engineering that studies physics and its practical applications to industry, science, and technology.

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Which of these areas are related to physics?

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Answer

All of them.

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Yes or no, are medical science and medicine related to physics?

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Yes.

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In the dynamics of movement, what aspects of objects are simplified to explain and model them?

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Answer

Their mass and movements.

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Which of the following uses the dynamics of movement?

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Answer

All of them.

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Give an example in aerospace where the dynamics of movement are used.

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Answer

To model rocket launches.

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Where are fluid dynamics applied?

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Answer

In naval engineering and aerospace.

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What do thermal engineering and thermodynamics study?

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Answer

They study devices that use heat to produce work or use work to modify the temperature of an object or place.

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What is thermodynamics?

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The area of physics that studies the exchanges of energy within a system.

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What is a thermal engine?

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Thermal engines are systems that use heat or energy to produce work or vice versa.

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Give two examples of thermal engines?

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Answer

The engines of a car and a freezer.

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How does a freezer produce low temperatures?

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By using work to remove heat from the freezer’s interior.

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How is thermodynamics used to model engines?

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By modelling the work and energy used.

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How many laws of thermodynamics are there?

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Answer

Four.

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What is another name for the second law of thermodynamics?

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Answer

The entropy law of irreversibility.

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What is another name for the zeroth law?

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Answer

The law of equilibrium.

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What is rotational dynamics?

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Answer

Rotational dynamics is the area of mechanics that studies objects moving in a circular or semicircular path.

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Is the earth orbiting the sun an example of rotational motion?

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Answer

Yes, it is.

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What is the name of the fictitious force that appears in rotational motion?

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Answer

Centrifugal force.

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Why does the centrifugal force appear in an object in rotational motion?

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Answer

Because of its reference frame.

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Name the non-dimensional unit used in rotational motion?

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Radian.

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What is the radius?

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The distance from the centre of rotation of an object orbiting that centre.

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Is the radius constant?

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Yes, it is.

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Name the units used to measure an angle.

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Answer

Degrees and radians.

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What is the value of a complete circle?

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Answer

Both are correct.

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Yes or no, is a pendulum an example of harmonic motion?

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Yes.

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Yes or no, when a pendulum falls and reaches its midpoint between the two extremes, does it have a maximum velocity?

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Yes.

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Which force pulls down the pendulum?

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Gravity.

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Which two values do you need to calculate the arc length?

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The angle and the radius.

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Yes or no, is the displacement in linear motion given by the distance the object has travelled?

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Yes.

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Question

What is the arc length of an object covering 1.5 pi radians at a distance of 3.5 metres from the centre of rotation? Hint: use the arc length equation s=angle*r.

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Answer

45 meters.

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Question

Calculate the displacement of an object that has moved 270 degrees. Hint: remember that every 90 degrees are half a radian.

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Answer

1.5 radians.

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Question

Calculate the angular velocity of an object that has moved 180 degrees in 3 seconds.

Hint: remember that every 90 degrees are half a radian.

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Answer

  • Applying the formula (θ2-θ1)/t, we find that in this case, the total displacement is 180 degrees or θ2-θ1=180. 
  • If a half-circle is 180 degrees but is also equal to 1 radian, then we get 1/3 [rad/s].

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Question

Calculate the angular acceleration of an object that has moved 180 degrees in 3 seconds and is moving at a uniform velocity. 


Hint: remember what uniform acceleration means.

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Answer

Applying the formula (ω2-ω1)/t, we find that in this case, the acceleration is uniform and therefore ω2-ω1=0, thus giving us 0 [rad/s2].

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Question

What is thermodynamics?.

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Answer

Thermodynamics is the area of physics that studies energy exchanges where heat and work are involved.

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What is heat?.

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Answer

Heat is the thermal energy transferred to a system or an object.

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If the temperature of particles composing a liquid or gas increases, does their kinetic energy increase or decrease?

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Answer

The kinetic energy increases.

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How many thermodynamic laws are there?

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Answer

Four.

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The first law of thermodynamics involves three concepts that use the symbols ΔU, W, and Q. What do they refer to?.

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Answer

Internal energy, work, and heat

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Question

If a machine is used to cool down a space, such as a freezer, is this machine a heat engine?.

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Answer

Yes, it is.

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How does a freezer cool down its interior?.

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Answer

By extracting heat from the inside to the outside.

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Question

What is efficiency?.

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Answer

Efficiency is the amount of work done with the energy used.

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If the energy needed to produce work increases but the amount of work done stays the same, does the efficiency increase or decrease?.

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Answer

The efficiency decreases.

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Does efficiency have a unit?.

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Answer

No, it is dimensionless.

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What is the minimum efficiency?.

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Answer

0.

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Question

Can a device reach an efficiency of 100%?.

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Answer

 No, it cannot.

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Question

 Calculate the efficiency of a machine that produces 122 joules of work while consuming 560 joules of heat. Hint: use the efficiency equation.

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Answer

21.7%.

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If a machine has an efficiency of 15% and produces work equal to 3.4[kj], how much energy does it consume? Hint: use the efficiency equation and solve for the heat Q.

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Answer

813.3 joules.

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Question

What is a thermodynamic cycle?.

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Answer

All answers.

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Question

Your electrical coffee machine heats the water from 5 degrees to 55 degrees, using 40 kilowatts of power per second to heat up 50[ml] of water. If the cp constant is 4.18[kj/kgºC], what is the efficiency of the coffee machine?.

Hint: use the heat equation to calculate the power and convert to heat to then use it and divided it by the heat consumed by the machine.

Show answer

Answer

26%

Show question

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