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Michelle Sperle-BergCHEM 5303Dr. Ken Capps1/28/24

Defining and Interconverting Thermodynamic Systems

A thermodynamic system is specified as region (area, object, or substance) with a defined boundary that is the focus of study. The aim is to learn more about the interactions of energy and matter in the system. This is often studied by considering the exchange of mass and/or energy between the system and surroundings.

Why Study Thermodynamics?

The study of thermodynamics allows for better understanding of how energy and matter are utilized in large and small systems. By studying thermodynamics, we can find ways to use energy with more efficiency and determine areas of energy loss. The amount of work that a thermodynamic system creates is often of importance in a thermodynamics. Thermodynamic studies start with defining the system that is of interest.

What is a Thermodynamic System?

Closed System

Open System

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System Identification and Conversions

System Identification and Conversions

System Identification and Conversions

System Identification and Conversions

System Identification and Conversions

Closed System Examples

Pressure Cooker

Unopened Can



Photo Credits: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2022.827835/full

An example of a closed system is a closed system transfer device used for the delivery of cytotoxic drugs. Picture A shows the traditional (open system) method of filling a syringe which is then administered to the patient. Picture B shows the closed system method for filling the syringe using a closed system drug transfer device.

Closed System In Practice

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Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. (2022). How do hot air balloons work? https://balloonmuseum.com/how-do-hot-air-balloons-work

Vyas, N., Turner, A., Clark, J. M., & Sewell, G. J. (2016). Evaluation of a closed-system cytotoxic transfer device in a pharmaceutical isolator. Journal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice: Official Publication of the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners, 22(1), 10–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/1078155214544993

Barragán, D. (2015). Essentials of kinetics and thermodynamics for understanding chemical oscillations. Foundations of Chemistry, 17(2), 93–106. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10698-015-9221-4

American College of Education. (2017). Chem 5303 Systems of Chemistry. Module 3 [Part 1 presentation]. Canvas. https://ace.instructure.com/courses/1958779/external_tools/118428


The water cycle could be considered an open system if one of the processes within the cycle were the "system" of interest. For example when studying weather, the water in the atmosphere (the system) could be defined as the system as it heavily influences the weather. Water is continuously being added and removed from the atmosphere due to the evaporation, condensation, precipitation processes that are constantly occurring. Thus matter is added or removed from the newly defined system.

The "hot air balloon system" includes the balloon or envelope, tjhe basket, and the burner. First, the envelope must be inflated which is a clear indication that matter (air molecules) are entering the system. The heat from the burner would be considered "inside the sytem" however, heat is released from balloon as it ascends into cooler air. Thus energy and matter enter and exit the system. To descend, warm air is released via a parachute valve which allows the hot air to escape, replacing it with cooler air (Anderson Abruzzo Balloon Museum, 2022). Thus both matter and energy enter and leave the system.

Hot Air Balloon

A closed cirrculatory system would not function normally. The bloodstream (the system) and the cells of our tissues (the surroundings) are constantly exchanging oxygen, carbon dioxide, hormones, proteins, fats, ions, water, white blood cells, and a host of other matter that moves between them. There are many systems in our body that are closely interconnected. These systems "communicate" with each other sending essential nutrients, ions, hormones, and other signals between them. Because they are open systems, feedback loops are generated within and between systems keeping our body in homeostasis.

Closed System in Practice

Exposure to cytotoxic drugs can have both acute and long term effects on medical personnel. Although preperation for dispensing these drugs is often done in an isolated environment, contamination is still prevelent. Open system, using syringes and needles, can lead to residue contamination of surfaces, needles, syringes, infusion bags and gloves as the solution can easily be released during transfer (loss of mass), putting personal and patients at risk. Studies have shown that using the closed system drug transfer device (such as that shown in picture B) can reduce surface contamination significantly as less of the cytotoxic drug can escape the system (Vyas et al., 2016)