First Law of Thermodynamics

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The First Law of Thermodynamics states that the increase in internal energy of a closed system equals the amount of heat energy added minus the work performed by the system.

Mathematically, this is described as follows:

where is the infinitesimal increase in the internal energy, is the infinitesimal amount of heat added, and is the infinitesimal amount of work performed.

A ramification of this is the Principle of conservation of energy[1] [2]; the amount of energy in the closed system of the universe remains constant. This can be combined with the principle of Mass-Energy Equivalence to demonstrate that the amount of mass in the universe is constant.

Note that if no energy is added, then the maximum amount of work that can be performed by the system is equal to its initial energy. This prevents the existence of a type of perpetual motion machine.


  1. Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With Chemistry. Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 1998
  2. “This law is considered the most powerful and most fundamental generalization about the universe that scientists have ever been able to make. No one knows why energy is conserved... All that anyone can say is that in over a century and a quarter of careful measurement scientists have never been able to point to a definite violation of energy conservation, either in the familiar everyday surroundings about us, or in the heavens above or in the atoms within.” Isaac Asimov, Smithsonian Institution Journal, 1970, p.6 (quoted)