# What is Carnot’s principle – Carnot’s rule – Definition

Carnot’s principle or Carnot’s rule specifies limits on the maximum efficiency any heat engine can obtain. No engine can be more efficient than a Carnot heat engine. Thermal Engineering

## Carnot’s principle – Carnot’s rule

In 1824, a French engineer and physicist, Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot advanced the study of the second law by forming a principle (also called Carnot’s rule) that specifies limits on the maximum efficiency any heat engine can obtain. In short, Carnot’s principle states that the efficiency of a thermodynamic cycle depends solely on the difference between the hot and cold temperature reservoirs.

Carnot’s principle states:

1. No engine can be more efficient than a reversible engine (a Carnot heat engine) operating between the same high temperature and low temperature reservoirs.
2. The efficiencies of all reversible engines (Carnot heat engines) operating between the same constant temperature reservoirs are the same, regardless of the working substance employed or the operation details.

## Carnot Efficiency

The formula for this maximum efficiency is:

where:

• is the efficiency of Carnot cycle, i.e. it is the ratio = W/QH of the work done by the engine to the heat energy entering the system from the hot reservoir.
• TC is the absolute temperature (Kelvins) of the cold reservoir,
• TH is the absolute temperature (Kelvins) of the hot reservoir.

Example: Carnot efficiency for coal-fired power plant
In a modern coal-fired power plant, the temperature of high pressure steam (Thot) would be about 400°C (673K) and Tcold, the cooling tower water temperature, would be about 20°C (293K). For this type of power plant the maximum (ideal) efficiency will be:

= 1 – Tcold/Thot = 1 – 293/673 = 56%

It must be added, this is an idealized efficiency. The Carnot efficiency is valid for reversible processes. These processes cannot be achieved in real cycles of power plants. The Carnot efficiency dictates that higher efficiencies can be attained by increasing the temperature of the steam. This feature is valid also for real thermodynamic cycles. But this requires an increase in pressures inside boilers or steam generators. However, metallurgical considerations place an upper limits on such pressures. Sub-critical fossil fuel power plants, that are operated under critical pressure (i.e. lower than 22.1 MPa), can achieve 36–40% efficiency. Supercritical designs, that are operated at supercritical pressure (i.e. greater than 22.1 MPa),  have efficiencies around 43%. Most efficient and also very complex coal-fired power plants that are operated at “ultra critical” pressures (i.e. around 30 MPa) and use multiple stage reheat reach about 48% efficiency.

References:
Nuclear and Reactor Physics:
1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
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3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
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6. Kenneth S. Krane. Introductory Nuclear Physics, 3rd Edition, Wiley, 1987, ISBN: 978-0471805533
7. G.R.Keepin. Physics of Nuclear Kinetics. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co; 1st edition, 1965
8. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
9. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.

1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2.
4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

Second Law

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