Pressure is Confined Kinetic EnergyAccording the kinetic theory of ideal gases , air pressure can be defined as the average momentum transfer per unit area per unit time due to molecular collisions between a confined gas and its boundary. Using Newton's second law, this pressure can be shown to be given by one third of the average kinetic energy of molecules in the gas.
Proof: This is a classical result from the kinetic theory of gases . Let be the total mass of a gas confined to a rectangular volume , where is the area of one side and the distance to the opposite side. Let denote the average molecule velocity in the direction. Then the total net molecular momentum in the direction is given by . Suppose the momentum is directed against a face of area . A rigid-wall elastic collision by a mass traveling into the wall at velocity imparts a momentum of magnitude to the wall (because the momentum of the mass is changed from to , and momentum is conserved). The average momentum-transfer per unit area is therefore at any instant in time. To obtain the definition of pressure, we need only multiply by the average collision rate, which is given by . That is, the average -velocity divided by the round-trip distance along the dimension gives the collision rate at either wall bounding the dimension. Thus, we obtain
Volume Velocity of a Gas