Limitations of the first Law. Need for the Second Law

A major limitation of the first law of thermodynamics is that its merely indicates that in any process there is an exact equivalence between the various forms of energies involved, but it provides no information concerning the spontaneity or feasibility of the process. For example, the first law does not indicate whether heat can flow from a cold end to a hot end or not.

The answers to the above questions are provided by the second law of thermodynamics.

Spontaneous and non – Spontaneous Process

If in the expansion of a gas the opposing pressure is infinitesimally smaller than the pressure of the gas, the expansion takes place infinitesimally slowly i.e. reversible. If however, the opposing pressure is much smaller than the pressure of the gas the expansion takes place rapidly i.e. irreversibly. Natural processes are spontaneous and irreversible.

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