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What is Thermodynamic Reversed Heat Engine?

written by: Haresh Khemani • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 8/15/2008

The reversed heat engine works on the principle of reversed Carnot cycle. The heat engine produces work by absorbing heat from source and liberating some heat to sink. The reversed heat engine transfers the heat from sink to the source with the help of external work.

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    The engine is the devise that produces the work by absorbing heat from the high temperature reservoir or source and releasing the remaining heat to the low temperature reservoir or sink. One of the earliest cycles for the heat engine was proposed by Sadi Carnot. The Carnot cycle comprises of two reversible isothermal processes and two reversible adiabatic processes. Since all the processes in Carnot cycle are considered to be reversible, whole cycle is also considered to be reversible. If all the processes of the Carnot cycle are reversed, what we get is a machine which is called as reversed heat engine.

    As the name suggests the reversed heat engine works exactly opposite to the heat engine. The heat engine produces work by absorbing heat from the source and liberating some heat to the sink. The reversed heat engine absorbs the work and transfers heat from the sink to the source. That means that the reversed heat engine absorbs work and transfers heat from low temperature reservoir to high temperature reservoir.

    The natural tendency of the heat is to flow from the high temperature reservoir to the low temperature reservoir. The concept of reversed heat engine clearly shows that to transfer heat from the low temperature reservoir to the high temperature reservoir external work must be performed on the system. The reversed heat engine comprises of all the processes that the Carnot heat engine has, but they operate in a reverse manner.

    The reversed heat engine concept bolsters the findings made by Clausius about second law of thermodynamics. His statement for second law of thermodynamics says, “It is impossible to construct a device which, operating in a cycle, will produce no effect other than the transfer of heat from a colder to a hotter body." This means that when the devise transfers heat from low temperature to high temperature reservoir, it cannot do so without producing any other effect. This any other effect is absorbing the work. The heat will not flow spontaneously form low temperature to high temperature reservoir; some external work has to be done on it.

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    Foundation of Refrigerator and Heat Pump

    The straight Carnot cycle has led to development of the automobiles that produce the work by absorbing heat from the source and liberating remaining heat to the atmosphere. The concept of reversed heat engine has led to the development of the refrigerator and heat pump. As we know our household refrigerator maintains low temperature inside the freezer by absorbing the heat from this low temperature compartment and liberating it to atmosphere which is at high temperature. For doing so the refrigerator consumes electricity, which is work input.

    The air-conditioner and heat pump also work on the same principle. During summers air-conditioner removes the heat from room and liberates it to the atmosphere thus keeping the room cool. The heat pump is useful in winters, it absorbs the heat from atmosphere, which is at low temperature and releases it to the room to keep it hot.

    The Carnot cycle and reversed Carnot cycle has led to the major developments in the human history. There is hardly any other cycle which can be as universally applicable as these two.

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