RES.TLL-004 | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate

STEM Concept Videos


Equilibrium vs. Steady State


In this video, viewers explore the differences and similarities between thermal equilibrium and steady state temperature. Four scenarios are presented wherein the heat transfer between a pan and its handle, and between the handle and the room are constrained in a variety of ways, and the resultant temperature profiles are discussed. Viewers are asked to: determine whether the handle is at thermal equilibrium or steady state temperature; sketch a corresponding temperature profile in the pan-handle; and predict whether or not a particular pan-handle will be cool enough to touch.

Learning Objectives

After watching this video students will be able to:

  • Identify whether a system is at equilibrium and/or steady state.
  • Describe the differences and similarities between equilibrium and steady state.

Funding provided by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Developed by the Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL) at MIT for SUTD

MIT © 2012

It is highly recommended that the video is paused when prompted so that students are able to attempt the activities on their own and then check their solutions against the video.

During the video, students will:

  • Consider whether or not a metal bar is at thermal equilibrium with the air in the room.
  • Consider whether or not the same metal bar, now placed on a heater for a long time, is at thermal equilibrium with the room.
  • Apply the concepts of thermal equilibrium and steady state to specify conditions for which the handle of a pan, which has been heated on a stove for a long time, is too hot to hold or cool to the touch.
  • Analyze whether the pan on the stove and its handle are at equilibrium, steady state or both for four different cases.