why is heat a weightles fluid?

Updated: 6/5/2023
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Tinotenda Chikwangwa...

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In the history of thermodynamics, the initial explanations of heat were thoroughly confused with explanations of combustion. After J. J. Becher and Georg Ernst Stahl introduced the phlogiston theory of combustion in the 17th century, phlogiston was thought to be the substance of heat.

There is one version of the caloric theory that was introduced by Antoine Lavoisier. Prior to Lavoisier's caloric theory, published references concerning heat and its existence, outside of being an agent for chemical reactions, were sparse only having been offered by Joseph Black in Rozier's Journal (1772) citing the melting temperature of ice.[2] In response to Black, Lavoisier's private manuscripts revealed that he had encountered the same phenomena of a fixed melting point for ice and mentioned that he had already formulated an explanation which he had not published as of yet.[3] Lavoisier developed the explanation of combustion in terms of oxygen in the 1770s. In his paper "Réflexions sur le phlogistique" (1783), Lavoisier argued that phlogiston theory was inconsistent with his experimental results, and proposed a 'subtle fluid' called caloric as the substance of heat.[4] According to this theory, the quantity of this substance is constant throughout the universe,[citation needed] and it flows from warmer to colder bodies. Indeed, Lavoisier was one of the first to use a calorimeter to measure the heat released during chemical reaction. Lavoisier presented the idea that caloric was a subtle fluid, obeying the common laws of matter, but attenuated to such a degree that it is capable of passing through dense matter without restraint; caloric's own material nature is evident when it is in abundance such as in the case of an explosion.[2]

In the 1780s, some believed that cold was a fluid, "frigoric". Pierre Prévost argued that cold was simply a lack of caloric.

Since heat was a material substance in caloric theory, and therefore could neither be created nor destroyed, conservation of heat was a central assumption.[5] Heat conduction was believed to have occurred as a result of the affinity between caloric and matter thus the less caloric a substance possessed, thereby being colder, attracted excess caloric from nearby atoms until a caloric, and temperature, equilibrium was reached.[6]

Chemists of the time believed in the self-repulsion of heat particles as a fundamental force thereby making the great fluid elasticity of caloric, which does not create a repulsive force, an anomalous property which Lavoisier could not explain to his detractors.[7]

Radiation of heat was explained by Lavoisier to be concerned with the condition of the surface of a physical body rather than the material of which it was composed.[6][8] Lavoisier described a poor radiator to be a substance with a polished or smooth surface as it possessed its molecules lying in a plane closely bound together thus creating a surface layer of caloric which insulated the release of the rest within.[6] He described a great radiator to be a substance with a rough surface as only a small amount of molecules held caloric in within a given plane allowing for greater escape from within.[6] Count Rumford would later cite this explanation of caloric movement as insufficient to explain the radiation of cold becoming a point of contention for the theory as a whole.[6]

The introduction of the caloric theory was influenced by the experiments of Joseph Black related to the thermal properties of materials. Besides the caloric theory, another theory existed in the late eighteenth century that could explain the phenomenon of heat: the kinetic theory. The two theories were considered to be equivalent at the time, but kinetic theory was the more modern one, as it used a few ideas from atomic theory and could explain both combustion and calorimetry. Caloric theory's inability to explain evaporation and sublimation further led to the rise of kinetic theory through the work of Count Rumford. Count Rumford observed solid Mercury's tendency to melt under atmospheric conditions and thus proposed that the intensity of heat itself must stem from particle motion for such an event to occur where great heat was not expected to be.[3]

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Q: Why is heat a weightles fluid?
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