Thermal velocity

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The thermal velocity or thermal speed is a typical velocity of the thermal motion of particles which make up a gas, liquid, etc. Thus, indirectly, thermal velocity is a measure of temperature. Technically speaking it is a measure of the width of the peak in the Maxwell–Boltzmann particle velocity distribution. Note that in the strictest sense thermal velocity is not a velocity, since velocity usually describes a vector rather than simply a scalar speed.

Since the thermal velocity is only a "typical" velocity, a number of different definitions can be and are used.

Taking k_B to be the Boltzmann constant, T is the temperature, and m is the mass of a particle, then we can write the different thermal velocities:

In one dimension[edit]

If v_{th} is defined as the root mean square of the velocity in any one dimension (i.e. any single direction), then

v_{th}=\sqrt{\frac{k_BT}{m}}.

If v_{th} is defined as the mean of the magnitude of the velocity in any one dimension (i.e. any single direction), then

v_{th}=\sqrt{\frac{2 k_BT}{\pi m}}.

If v_{th} is defined as the 1/e half-width of the thermal distribution or

if v_{th} is defined such that a particle with this speed has an energy of k_B T, then

v_{th}=\sqrt{\frac{2k_BT}{m}}.

In three dimensions[edit]

If v_{th} is defined as the most probable speed, then

v_{th}=\sqrt{\frac{2k_BT}{m}}.

If v_{th} is defined as the root mean square of the total velocity (in three dimensions), then

v_{th}=\sqrt{\frac{3k_BT}{m}}.

If v_{th} is defined as the mean of the magnitude of the velocity of the atoms or molecules, then

v_{th}=\sqrt{\frac{8k_B T}{m\pi}}.