Kinetic theory

Mathematical model explaining macroscopic properties of gases in microscopic terms.

Kinetic theory or kinetic theory of gases attempts to explain overall properties of gases, such as pressure, temperature, or volume, by considering their molecular composition and motion. The theory basically states that pressure is not caused by molecules pushing each other away, like earlier scientists thought. Instead, pressure is caused by the molecules colliding with each other and their container. Kinetic theory is also known as kinetic-molecular theory or collision theory.

There are three main components to kinetic theory:[1]

  • No energy is gained or lost when molecules collide
  • The molecules in a gas take up a negligible (able to be ignored) amount of space in relation to the container they occupy
  • The molecules are in constant, linear motion


  • The Mathematical Theory of Non-uniform Gases : An Account of the Kinetic Theory of Viscosity, Thermal Conduction and Diffusion in Gases, Sydney Chapman, T. G. Cowling

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