# 1.8: Equation of State-Ideal Gas Law

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Because pressure is caused by the movement of molecules, you might expect the pressure P to be greater where there are more molecules (i.e., greater density ρ), and where they are moving faster (i.e., greater temperature T). The relationship between pressure, density, and temperature is called the Equation of State.

Different fluids have different equations of state, depending on their molecular properties. The gases in the atmosphere have a simple equation of state known as the Ideal Gas Law.

For dry air (namely, air with the usual mix of gases, except no water vapor), the ideal gas law is:

\ \begin{align}P=\rho \cdot \Re_{d} \cdot T\tag{1.18}\end{align}

where ℜd = 0.287053 kPa·K–1·m3·kg–1 = 287.053 J·K–1·kg–1 .

d is called the gas constant for dry air. Absolute temperatures (K) must be used in the ideal gas law. The total air pressure P is the sum of the partial pressures of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, and the other gases.

A similar equation of state can be written for just the water vapor in air:

\ \begin{align}e=\rho_{v} \cdot \Re_{v} \cdot T\tag{1.19}\end{align}

where e is the partial pressure due to water vapor (called the vapor pressure), ρv is the density of water vapor (called the absolute humidity), and the gas constant for pure water vapor is

v = 0.4615 kPa·K–1·m3·kg–1 = 461.5 J·K–1·kg–1 .

For moist air (normal gases with some water vapor),

\begin{align}P=\rho \cdot \Re \cdot T\tag{1.21}\end{align}

where density ρ is now the total density of the air. A difficulty with this last equation is that the “gas constant” is NOT constant. It changes as the humidity changes because water vapor has different molecular properties than dry air.

To simplify things, a virtual temperature Tv can be defined to include the effects of water vapor:

\ \begin{align}T_{v}=T \cdot[1+(a \cdot r)]\tag{1.21}\end{align}

where r is the water-vapor mixing ratio [r = (mass of water vapor)/(mass of dry air), with units gwater vapor /gdry air, see the Water Vapor chapter], a = 0.61 gdry air/gwater vapor, and all temperatures are in absolute units (K). In a nutshell, moist air of temperature T behaves as dry air with temperature Tv . Tv is greater than T because water vapor is less dense than dry air, and thus moist air acts like warmer dry air.

If there is also liquid water or ice in the air, then this virtual temperature must be modified to include the liquid-water loading (i.e., the weight of the drops falling at their terminal velocity) and ice loading:

\ \begin{align}T_{v}=T \cdot\left[1+(a \cdot r)-r_{L}-r_{I}\right]\tag{1.22}\end{align}

where rL is the liquid-water mixing ratio (gliquid water / gdry air), rI is the ice mixing ratio (gice / gdry air), and a = 0.61 (gdry air / g water vapor ). Because liquid water and ice are heavy, air with liquid-water and/ or ice loading acts like colder dry air.

With these definitions, a more useful form of the ideal gas law can be written for air of any humidity:

\ \begin{align}P=\rho \cdot \Re_{d} \cdot T_{v}\tag{1.23}\end{align}

where ℜd is still the gas constant for dry air. In this form of the ideal gas law, the effects of variable humidity are hidden in the virtual temperature factor, which allows the dry “gas constant” to be used (nice, because it really is constant).

Sample Application

What is the average (standard) surface temperature for dry air, given standard pressure and density?

Given: P = 101.325 kPa, ρ = 1.225 kg·m-3

Find: T = ? K

Solving eq. (1.18) for T gives: T = P / (ρ·ℜd)

$$\ T=\frac{101.325\ kPa}{1.225\ kg\cdot m^{-3})\cdot (0.287\ kPa\cdot K^{-1} \cdot m^3 \cdot kg^{-1})}=288.2\ K$$ = 15oC

Check: Units OK. Physically reasonable.

Exposition: The answer agrees with the standard surface temperature of 15°C discussed earlier, a cool but pleasant temperature

Sample Application

What is the absolute humidity of air of temperature 20°C and water vapor pressure of 2 kPa?

Given: e = 2 kPa, T = 20°C = 293 K

Find: ρv = ? kgwater vapor ·m-3

Solving eq. (1.19) for ρv gives: ρv = e / (ℜv·T)

ρv = ( 2 kPa ) / ( 0.4615 kPa·K–1·m3·kg–1 · 293 K )

= 0.0148 kgwater vapor ·m-3

Check: Units OK. Physically reasonable.

Exposition: Small compared to the total air density.

Sample Application

In an unsaturated tropical environment with temperature of 35°C and water-vapor mixing ratio of 30 gwater vapor/kgdry air, what is the virtual temperature?

Given: T = 35°C, r = 30 gwater vapor/kgdry air

Find: Tv = ? °C

First, convert T and r to proper units

T = 273.15 + 35 = 308.15 K.

r =(30 gwater/kg air)·(0.001 kg/g) = 0.03 gwater/gair

Next use eq. (1.21):

Tv = (308.15 K)·[ 1 + (0.61 · 0.03) ]

= 313.6 K = 40.6°C.

Check: Units OK. Physically reasonable

Exposition: Thus, high humidity reduces the density of the air so much that it acts like dry air that is 5°C warmer, for this case.

Sample Application

In a tropical environment with temperature of 35°C, water-vapor mixing ratio of 30 gwater vapor/kgdry air , and 10 gliquid water/kgdry air of raindrops falling at their terminal velocity through the air, what is the virtual temperature?

Given: T = 35°C, r = 30 gwater vapor/kgdry air

rL = 10 gliquid water/kgdry air

Find: Tv = ? °C

First, convert T , r and rL to proper units

T = 273.15 + 35 = 308.15 K.

r =(30 gvapor/kg air)·(0.001 kg/g) = 0.03 gvapor/g air

rL =(10 gliquid/kg air)·(0.001 kg/g) = 0.01 gliquid/g air

Next use eq. (1.22):

Tv = (308.15 K)·[ 1 + (0.61 · 0.03) – 0.01 ] = 310.7 K = 37.6°C.

Check: Units OK. Physically reasonable.

Exposition: Compared to the previous Sample Application, the additional weight due to falling rain made the air act like it was about 3°C cooler.

This page titled 1.8: Equation of State-Ideal Gas Law is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Roland Stull via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.