According to the kinetic theory, a gas consists of an unimaginably large number of gas particle in random motion. It is impossible to analyse the motion of each and every gas particle. But having large number of particles in random motion also means that the system as a whole can be modelled accurately using statistical methods.

For example, a very useful statistical average is called the **mean-square speed** of the gas particles in the gas[1],

If we take the square root of , we obtain *c*_{rms}, the **root-mean-square speed** of the gas particles,

Firstly, let’s be clear that is neither equal to the average velocity nor the average speed . By the way, is expected to be zero since the motion of the gas particles in an ideal gas is assumed to be random in direction.

So what’s so great about ? Well, it is a meaningful statistical average because it is directly related to the KE and pressure of a gas.

For a gas containing atoms of mass *m*, the average kinetic energy of the atoms can be expressed as

And its pressure can be expressed as

where *ρ* is the density of the gas. This formula will be discussed in more detail in the following section.

Example

For a mickey-mouse scenario of 5 gas particles moving along the *x*-axis with velocities

-2 m s^{-1}, -1 m s^{-1}, 0 m s^{-1}, +1 m s^{-1} and +2 m s^{-1}

Calculate

a) mean-square speed ,

b) root-mean-square speed *c*_{rms},

c) average speed

d) average velocity

of the gas particles.

Solution

a)

b)

c)

and

d)

–

**Applet**

**Video Explanation**

How to Calculate Root-Mean-Square Speed?

[1] Note that &bg=ffffff$ is the shorthand notation for average of *x*.