Carnot Cycle - Stages of The Carnot Cycle

Stages of The Carnot Cycle

The Carnot cycle when acting as a heat engine consists of the following steps:

  1. Reversible isothermal expansion of the gas at the "hot" temperature, TH (isothermal heat addition or absorption). During this step (1 to 2 on Figure 1, A to B in Figure 2) the gas is allowed to expand and it does work on the surroundings. The temperature of the gas does not change during the process, and thus the expansion is isothermic. The gas expansion is propelled by absorption of quantities Q1 of heat and of entropy from the high temperature reservoir.
  2. Isentropic (reversible adiabatic) expansion of the gas (isentropic work output). For this step (2 to 3 on Figure 1, B to C in Figure 2) the piston and cylinder are assumed to be thermally insulated, thus they neither gain nor lose heat. The gas continues to expand, working on the surroundings. The gas expansion causes it to cool to the "cold" temperature, TC. The entropy remains unchanged.
  3. Reversible isothermal compression of the gas at the "cold" temperature, TC. (isothermal heat rejection) (3 to 4 on Figure 1, C to D on Figure 2) Now the surroundings do work on the gas, causing quantities Q2 of heat and of entropy to flow out of the gas to the low temperature reservoir. (This is the same amount of entropy absorbed in step 1.)
  4. Isentropic compression of the gas (isentropic work input). (4 to 1 on Figure 1, D to A on Figure 2) Once again the piston and cylinder are assumed to be thermally insulated. During this step, the surroundings do work on the gas, compressing it and causing the temperature to rise to TH. The entropy remains unchanged. At this point the gas is in the same state as at the start of step 1.

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