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Home > Undergraduate Programs > Courses > AME 20231 - Thermodynamics

AME 20231 - Thermodynamics

Catalog Data:

Basic concepts of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics. Work, heat, properties of substances and state equations. The second law of thermodynamics. Applications to engineering systems. Spring.

Prerequisites: MATH 20550


  • C. Borgnakke and R. E. Sonntag, Fundamentals of Thermodynamics, Seventh Edition, John Wiley, New York, 2009.
  • Also, every lecture is posted on the web, along with supplementary course materials.

Course Objectives:

Students completing this course are expected to:

  1. Understand the nature and role of the following thermodynamic properties of matter: internal energy, enthalpy, entropy, temperature, pressure and specific volume;
  2. Be able to access thermodynamic property data from appropriate sources;
  3. Be able to chart thermodynamic processes on appropriate thermodynamic diagrams, such as a temperature-entropy or pressure-volume diagram;
  4. Be able to represent a thermodynamic system by a control mass or control volume, distinguish the system from its surroundings, and identify work and/or heat interactions between the system and surroundings;
  5. Recognize and understand the different forms of energy and restrictions imposed by the first law of thermodynamics on conversion from one form to another;
  6. Be able to apply the first law to a control mass or control volume at an instant of time or over a time interval;
  7. Understand implications of the second law of thermodynamics and limitations placed by the second law on the performance of thermodynamic systems;
  8. Be able to use isentropic processes to represent the ideal behavior of a system;
  9. Be able to quantify the behavior of power plants based on the Rankine cycle, including the effect of enhancements such as superheat, reheat and regeneration;
  10. Be able to quantify the performance of power plants based on the Brayton cycle, including the effects of enhancements such as reheat, regeneration and intercooling;
  11. Be able to quantify the performance of refrigeration and heat pump systems;
  12. Be able to understand non-ideal state equations.


Topics Covered:

  1. Forms of Energy
  2. Systems and surroundings
  3. Work and heat interactions
  4. First law of thermodynamics
  5. Application of first law to a control mass
  6. Thermodynamic properties of phase-change fluids and ideal gases
  7. Thermodynamic charts and process diagrams
  8. Application of first law and mass conservation to a control volume
  9. Second law of thermodynamics and the Carnot cycle
  10. Entropy relations and isentropic processes
  11. Rankine cycle including the effects of superheating, reheating and regeneration
  12. Combined heat and power systems; the Notre Dame heat and power plant
  13. Brayton cycle including the effects of reheating, regeneration and intercooling
  14. Turbojet engines
  15. Refrigeration and heat pump systems
  16. Non-ideal gases
  17. Van der Waals equation of state
  18. Maxwell relations


3 Semester Hrs of Credit, taught as a lecture course, usually taught as three 50-minute contact hours per week; however, could meet twice a week for 75 minutes.

Contribution to Professional Component:

This course is the first course in a thermosciences sequence that includes fluid mechanics and heat transfer. Since thermodynamics is central to all energy conversion and utilization processes, the subject plays a critical role in the development of technologies required for a sustainable energy future. As presented to the students, the subject is framed in this context, and connections between its content and society’s needs are made throughout the course. Connections include pollution and carbon capture/sequestration issues, as well as energy efficiency.

The course emphasizes both the science and practice of thermodynamics. Basic thermodynamic properties and relations, as well as the first and second laws of thermodynamics, are covered extensively. Applications include steam and gas power plants, turbojet engines, refrigeration and heat pump systems, and fuel cells. Special consideration given to the Notre Dame combined heat and power plant includes a lecture on operational features and a plant tour.

Contribution to Program Learning Outcomes and Assessment:

The specific mapping to the program Educational Objectives and Learning Outcomes is contained in PAT (Program Assessment Tool) forms executed after completing the course for each offering. The course addresses topics listed in objectives 1 (Understand the Profession), 2 (First Principles), 4 (Design), 6 (Communication), and 7 (Technology Impact). The Learning Outcomes are assessed through graded homework exercises, quizzes, 50-minute exams and a final exam. Since the course is a prerequisite for other courses in the curriculum, there are additional opportunities to evaluate the extent to which course objectives are achieved. Each semester, faculty teaching interconnected courses in the curriculum meet to discuss each course and assess its effectiveness in addressing learning outcomes. In recent years, AME 20231 has been the focus of attention.

Prepared by: Joseph M. Powers and updated June 14, 2013

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