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×18th May 2019 @ 6 min read

The Boltzmann constant is a very important constant in physics and chemistry. The constant relates the average kinetic energy of molecules of a gas with thermodynamic temperature. The Boltzmann constant is denoted as *k*_{B} or *k*. The dimension of the Boltzmann constant is energy per thermodynamic temperature. The SI unit is J K^{−}^{1}, which is the same as of entropy. The value of the Boltzmann constant is 1.380 649 × 10^{−}^{23} J K^{−}^{1}.

The value of Boltzmann's constant in different units is presented in the table below.

Value | Unit |
---|---|

1.380 649 × 10^{−23} | J K^{−1} |

1.380 649 × 10^{−16} | erg K^{−1} |

1.018 314(44) × 10^{−23} | ft lb_{f} K^{−1} |

3.299 830 3(06) × 10^{−24} | cal K^{−}^{1} |

1.833 239 0(59) × 10^{−24} | cal R^{−}^{1} |

8.617 330 3(50) × 10^{−5} | eV K^{−1} |

2.083 661 2(12) × 10^{10} | Hz K^{−1} |

3.166 811 4(29) × 10^{−6} | E_{H} K^{−1}, H is the hartree. |

The Boltzmann constant is named after Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. He made significant contribution to the field of statistical mechanics. In 1877 Boltzmann formulated the relation between entropy and probability; this relation is connected by the Boltzmann constant. That time, the constant was not christened after Boltzmann. It was Max Planck who first entitled the constant in his work on black body radiation in the 1900s.

Today, the Boltzmann constant is found in various expressions. Some of them are discussed below.

Both constants are related by Avogadro's constant. The gas constant (*R*) divided by Avogadro's constant (*N*_{A}) gives the Boltzmann constant.

The relation between the ideal gas equation and the Boltzmann constant is as follows:

where:*P* is the pressure of an ideal gas,*V* is the volume occupied by an ideal gas,*N* is the molecules in an ideal gas; it is defined as *N* = *n* × *N*_{A},

and *T* is the temperature of an ideal gas.

Arrhenius equation is a very important equation in chemical kinetics. It associates the rate constant of a chemical reaction with temperature. The rate constant is a function of temperature and activation energy.

where:*k* is the rate constant of a reaction,*A* is the Arrhenius constant,*T* is the temperature in the kelvin,

and *E*_{a} is the activation energy.

According to the collision theory, *A* is defined as:

where:*Z* is the collision frequency in m^{−3} s^{−1},*n*_{A} and *n*_{B} are the collision frequency of gas A and gas B respectively,*ρ* is the steric factor,*μ*_{AB} is the reduced mass, ,

and *σ*_{AB} is the reaction cross section area in m^{2}.

The Eyring equation is another important equation in chemical kinetics. The equation is named Mexican-born American chemist Henry Eyring. The Eyring equation is similar to the Arrhenius equation. It correlates the rate constant of a reaction with Gibb's energy of activation ∆^{‡}*G*^{⊖} and temperature in the kelvin.

where:*k* is the rate constant,*κ* is the transmission coefficient,*h* is the Planck constant.

Let *N* be the number of degree of freedom. The average internal energy *N* degree of freedom is given as:

A monatomic gas like helium, neon, xenon has three degrees of freedom (3 spatial direction). For monatomic gas, the average internal energy is

From the kinetic theory of gases, the pressure of a gas (*P*) is

where *v*⃗^{2} is a velocity vector in the three-dimensional space.

Substituting *PV* = *Nk*_{B}*T* in the above equation,

Therefore, the kinetic energy associated with monatomic ideal gases is expressed in the equation below.

*P _{i}* is the probability of a system occupying state

Statistical entropy (*S*) at thermodynamic equilibrium is defined as the Boltzmann constant times the natural logarithm of the distinct microscopic states (*W*) at fixed total energy.

Boltzmann published this equation in 1877.

The Boltzmann constant is also used in calculating thermal voltage in the Shockley diode equation. As per the Shockley diode equation, the diode current (*I*) is given as:

where:*I*_{s} is the reverse bias saturation current,*V*_{D} is the voltage across diode,*n* is identity faction,*V _{T}* is the thermal voltage.

The thermal voltage at temperature (*T*) is calculated from the below expression.

Here, *q* is the charge on an electron, 1.602 176 620 08(98) × 10^{−19} C.

At 27 ℃, its value is 25.856 mV.

The Boltzmann constant is useful in estimating the spectral radiance *B** _{ν}* of a body at temperature (

where:*h* is the Planck constant,*ν* is the frequency of radiation,*c* is the speed of light in a given medium.

The Stefan-Boltzmann constant (*σ*) is as follows:

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