Ask Difference

Isentropic vs. Adiabatic — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on October 18, 2023
Isentropic processes are reversible and entail no change in entropy; Adiabatic processes involve no heat transfer. Both terms describe thermodynamic processes.
Isentropic vs. Adiabatic — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Isentropic and Adiabatic


Key Differences

Isentropic processes stand out in the realm of thermodynamics because they don't result in a change in entropy. This means that, for the entire duration of an Isentropic process, entropy remains constant. On the contrary, Adiabatic processes are characterized by the absence of heat transfer into or out of a system. Simply put, they happen in isolation from any external heat source or sink.
Diving into practical examples, when we compress or expand a gas quickly, it's likely an Adiabatic process because there's insufficient time for heat to be exchanged with the surroundings. On the other hand, if the same gas expansion or compression is done reversibly and results in constant entropy, it can be described as Isentropic.
When considering real-world applications, engineers often assume processes to be Isentropic in turbines, compressors, and nozzles when they aim to achieve maximal efficiency. Adiabatic assumptions, meanwhile, are common in scenarios where rapid events occur, and heat exchange is minimal or negligible.
It's essential to note that while all Isentropic processes are Adiabatic, the inverse isn't necessarily true. An Adiabatic process can lead to changes in entropy, but an Isentropic one will never deviate from its constant entropy state.
Finally, these terms are paramount in fields like thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. Isentropic flows, for instance, are crucial in the study of supersonic flight, while Adiabatic processes are foundational in understanding phenomena like the lapse rate in meteorology.

Comparison Chart


No change in entropy
No heat transfer

Always Reversible?


Entropy Change

Can vary

Common Assumption In

Turbines, compressors, nozzles
Rapid gas expansion/compression

Heat Transfer

None (because entropy is constant)
None (by definition)

Compare with Definitions


A thermodynamic process with constant entropy.
The expansion in an ideal turbine is considered Isentropic.


Thermodynamic process in isolated systems.
The Adiabatic flame temperature determines maximum temperature without heat loss.


Describes equilibrium processes without entropy variation.
The Isentropic efficiency of a compressor gauges its performance.


No exchange of heat with surroundings.
Adiabatic walls ensure no heat flow in or out.


Pertains to conditions without entropy change.
Engineers often aim for Isentropic flow in nozzles for efficiency.


Can be reversible or irreversible.
A quick compression of air can be an Adiabatic process.


Always reversible in nature.
In real-world applications, few processes are perfectly Isentropic.


Heat remains constant within the system.
Adiabatic cooling results from expanding air without heat addition.


Constant entropy throughout the process.
An Isentropic compression is ideal but hard to achieve in reality.


A process without heat transfer.
Rapid gas expansion is usually considered Adiabatic.


Without change in entropy; at constant entropy.


Of, relating to, or being a reversible thermodynamic process that occurs without gain or loss of heat and without a change in entropy.


Having a constant entropy


That occurs without gain or loss of heat (and thus with no change in entropy, in the quasistatic approximation).


Having equal entropy.


That involves the slow change of the Hamiltonian of a system from its initial value to a final value.


With unchanging entropy; at constant entropy


An adiabatic curve or graph


Not giving out or receiving heat.


Occurring without loss or gain of heat;
Adiabatic expansion

Common Curiosities

How is Adiabatic different from Isentropic?

Adiabatic means no heat transfer, while Isentropic means constant entropy.

What does Isentropic mean?

Isentropic refers to processes with no change in entropy, typically reversible in nature.

Can an Adiabatic process change entropy?

Yes, while Isentropic processes have constant entropy, Adiabatic processes can change entropy.

Are all Isentropic processes also Adiabatic?

Yes, since Isentropic implies no entropy change and thus no heat transfer.

Why are Isentropic assumptions used in turbines?

It's an ideal scenario aiming for maximum efficiency in turbines.

What's an example of an Adiabatic process in daily life?

A good example is the rapid compression of a bicycle pump.

Can an Adiabatic process be irreversible?

Yes, Adiabatic processes can be both reversible and irreversible.

What drives the change in an Isentropic process if not heat or entropy?

Work interactions usually drive the change, especially in idealized Isentropic processes.

What fields utilize the concept of Adiabatic processes?

Meteorology, thermodynamics, and various engineering fields often use the Adiabatic concept.

Does Adiabatic mean no energy transfer?

No, it means no heat transfer. Work can still be transferred in Adiabatic processes.

How is Isentropic efficiency used?

It's a measure comparing the performance of real devices to an idealized Isentropic counterpart.

Is it common for real-world processes to be perfectly Isentropic?

No, it's an ideal condition; real-world processes often have some inefficiencies.

Is it possible for an Adiabatic process to have a change in temperature?

Yes, since temperature can change even if there's no heat transfer.

Can an Adiabatic process have constant entropy?

Yes, when an Adiabatic process is also Isentropic, its entropy remains constant.

Are Adiabatic walls realistic?

Perfectly Adiabatic walls are theoretical, but insulation can make walls nearly Adiabatic.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms