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Postulates of the Kinetic Molecular Theory

Author: John Hutchinson

We recall at this point our purpose in these observations. Our primary concern in this study is attempting to relate the properties of individual atoms or molecules to the properties of mass quantities of the materials composed of these atoms or molecules. We now have extensive quantitative observations on some specific properties of gases, and we proceed with the task of relating these to the particles of these gases. By taking an atomic molecular view of a gas, we can postulate that the pressure observed is a consequence of the collisions of the individual particles of the gas with the walls of the container. This presumes that the gas particles are in constant motion. The pressure is, by definition, the force applied per area, and there can be no other origin for a force on the walls of the container than that provided by the particles themselves. Furthermore, we observe easily that the pressure exerted by the gas is the same in all directions. Therefore, the gas particles must be moving equally in all directions, implying quite plausibly that the motions of the particles are random.

To calculate the force generated by these collisions, we must know something about the motions of the gas particles so that we know, for example, each particle’s velocity upon impact with the wall. This is too much to ask: there are perhaps 1020 particles or more, and following the path of each particle is out of the question. Therefore, we seek a model which permits calculation of the pressure without this information.

Based on our observations and deductions, we take as the postulates of our model:

  • A gas consists of individual particles in constant and random motion.
  • The individual particles have negligible volume.
  • The individual particles do not attract or repel one another in any way.
  • The pressure of the gas is due entirely to the force of the collisions of the gas particles with the walls of the container.
This model is the Kinetic Molecular Theory of Gases. We now look to see where this model leads.

Last Update: 2011-02-16