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Thermodynamics Of Living Systems

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Curricular Issues in BAE

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1197.1 - 8.1197.9



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Paper Authors

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George Meyer

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session: 2328

Thermodynamics of Living Systems A Fundamental Course for Biological Engineering

George E. Meyer

Biological Systems Engineering University of Nebraska 250 L.W. Chase Hall Lincoln, NE 68583-0726


A thermodynamics course specifically for engineering disciplines that deal with living systems is offered at the University of Nebraska. Traditional thermodynamics courses are taught in the mechanical engineering and chemical engineering departments, but concentrate primarily on physical systems and processes. The Biological Systems/Biological Engineering discipline requires study of thermodynamics of living systems as a pre-engineering foundation course. The course outline begins the normal way for a traditional thermodynamics course with discussion of basic concepts and properties of pure substances (water and freon). A detailed treatment of the first law illustrates applications to food and energy, psychrometrics, bio-mechanics, and human blood flow, with problems. Introductory heat transfer is presented with live demonstrations of heat transfer modes using a thermal imaging camera and infrared thermometry in the classroom. The second law also covers entropy production in biological systems and simple biological cycles. The course also covers refrigeration, heating, cooling, and those physical systems that would be used by biological engineers. Introduction of bio-chemical thermodynamics is also presented. An introduction to Gibbs energy is followed by elementary application problems in plant and mammalian bio-systems.


Presentation of thermodynamics with an extensive cosmological view of nature, biology, and the environment is given by Katchalsky and Curran 1, Valsaraj 2, and Kondepudi and Prigogine 3. These are vast works, not introductory student material, requiring a lot of preparation. Thermodynamics has been a primary engineering science. Engineering disciplines, which have emphasized living systems include: Agricultural Engineering (AE), Biological Systems Engineering (BSE), Bioengineering (BE), Environmental engineering within Civil Engineering (CE), and Biochemical Engineering (ChE). BSE is a broad discipline which focuses considerably on biological, food, biomedical, the treatment and/or utilization of waste streams, and biochemical processing emphasis areas.

The thermodynamics of living and environmental systems might be covered, utilizing all or parts of two or three existing courses taught in various engineering and chemistry departments.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Meyer, G. (2003, June), Thermodynamics Of Living Systems Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12120

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