Facilitating Students’ Interaction with Real Gas Properties Using a Discovery-Based Approach and Molecular Dynamics Simulations

Chelsea Sweet, Oyewumi Akinfenwa, Jonathan J. Foley IV

J. Chem. Ed.


We present an interactive discovery-based approach to studying the properties of real gases using simple, yet realistic, molecular dynamics software. Use of this approach opens up a variety of opportunities for students to interact with the behaviors and underlying theories of real gases. Students can visualize gas behavior under a variety of conditions; they can implement kinetic theory expressions as computer code to compute macroscopic quantities from microscopic/kinematic behaviors of the simulated gases, and they can explore strategies to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate deviations from ideal gas behavior. A simple and fully functional molecular dynamics program written in the C programming language that has been tested on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms accompanies this article; detailed suggestions are provided for implementing this exercise with or without programming activities.