What is Gas Pressure? A Gaseous Definition

Core Concepts

In this article, you will learn the physics definition of pressure, and how to apply this definition to a sample of gas. From this, you will learn how gases exert pressure on a container, and what possible applications this definition has.

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What is Pressure – A Physical Definition

The physical definition of pressure is the total amount of force over a given area. This can be described by the equation P=\frac{F}{A}, where F is the total force, and A is the area.

What is Pressure – A Gaseous Definition

Consider a sample of gas. In this sample of gas, there are many gas particles flying around in different directions, colliding with each other and the walls of their container. These collisions are what cause pressure.

Consider what occurs when a single particle collides and bounces off of a wall at a speed v. Assuming a perfectly elastic collision, this particle will accelerate by a factor of
2v\sin(\theta). Considering Newton’s second, F=ma, we can then see how this acceleration would exert a force on the wall.

Now, consider once more the entire sample of gas. Each particle bounces off of the walls exerting a degree of force. We can sum this force over the surface of the entire wall to get the equation F=\frac{\sum F}{A}.

From this equation, we can then see how a sample of gas in a container has a specific pressure.

Applications of this Definition

This definition is less of a rigorous physics definition, and more of a way to see how gas can exert a pressure. However, this particle-based definition can help us understand later how some of the specific gas laws have been derived.

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