Any closed path or figure, such as ABCD, represents a complete cycle or series of operations, in the course of which the substance is restored to its original state with respect to temperature, intrinsic energy and other properties.
A cycle such as ABCD enclosed by parts of two isothermals, BC, AD, and two adiabatics, AB, CD, is the simplest form of cycle for theoretical purposes, since all the heat absorbed, H', is taken in during the process represented by one isothermal at the temperature o', and all the heat rejected, H", is given out during the process represented by the other at the temperature 0".
The area ABCD, representing the work, W, per cycle, is the difference (H' - H") of the quantities of heat absorbed and rejected at the temperatures 0 and 0".
Then by relations (2) the heat, H, absorbed in the isothermal change BC, is to the work, W, done in the cycle ABCD in the ratio of o to (o' - o").
Of temperature (o' - o") is small, the figure ABCD may be regarded as a parallelogram, and its area W as equal to the rectangle BE XEC. This is accurately true in the limit when (0' - 0") is infinitesimal, but in practice it is necessary to measure specific heats, &c., over finite ranges of temperature, and the error involved is generally negligible if the range does not exceed a few degrees.