12 Real-world examples of Open, Closed and Isolated Systems

System types can be categorized into three main categories: open, closed, and isolated. Open systems are those that allow two-way communication between the system and its environment while also allowing matter to flow freely in and out. Closed systems don’t accept much outside input or output and operate more independently within their boundaries. Isolated systems don’t exchange any matter with their environment at all and they are completely self-contained.

Open Systems

An open system allows energy and matter to exchange with its surroundings. Here are some examples:

Human Body

a human body
a human body

The human body is a remarkable thing. It’s a complex and ever-evolving system, always adapting to its environment to keep us alive. What makes it so amazing is that it operates as an open system.

An open system is one where energy moves freely between the body and its environment. This means the human body isn’t completely self-contained; instead, it relies on external influences such as food, air, and water to function correctly. As an open system, our bodies constantly take in new information and adjust accordingly- whether through physical exercise or psychological changes – creating a dynamic relationship between the individual and their surroundings.

This understanding of the human body as an open system has immense implications for how we view health, wellness, and even personal growth.

Rivers and Stream

rivers and streams
rivers and streams

Rivers and streams are examples of open systems in nature that demonstrate the incredible dynamism of the environment. They receive inputs from precipitation, groundwater, and other sources to continuously replenish their water supply. This water is then released through evaporation, transpiration, and other processes back into the atmosphere. It’s an amazing cycle that helps keep our environment balanced!

Open systems like rivers and streams provide countless benefits to our natural ecosystems. They act as a buffer against floods, providing storage for excess runoff during times of heavy rainfall. Rivers also help maintain healthy levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing it as they flow downstream. Additionally, these bodies of water are also incredibly important for migrating wildlife that depends on them for food and shelter during their journey.

Forest Ecosystems

forest ecosystems
forest ecosystems

Forest ecosystems are another example of open systems in nature. They receive inputs in the form of sunlight, water, and nutrients, and they release energy and waste products through photosynthesis, respiration, and decomposition. The constant exchange of matter and energy creates a dynamic and diverse ecosystem that supports a wide range of plants and animals.

In forest ecosystems, like any other open system, resources flow continuously between internal parts of the system while interacting with its environment. These resources could be energy from sunlight or nutrients from the soil that plants absorb through their roots.

The major players in this complex network are plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms- all dependent on each other for survival. An advantage of this open system is that it is self-regulating; when one element changes or depletes, something else will take its place ensuring balance within the system’s boundaries.

Air Compressor

many air compressors
many air compressors

An air compressor is an essential mechanical device found in most modern industrial and commercial settings. It is used to increase the pressure of a gas, usually air, by reducing its volume. From a thermodynamic perspective, an air compressor is considered an open system because it exchanges matter and energy with its surroundings.

Within the compressor itself, atmospheric air enters from outside and is compressed inside through a series of valves or pistons. As the air moves through the device, its pressure increases substantially as it passes from one chamber to the next. Once the compressed air reaches its peak pressure level, it is released back into the atmosphere as higher-pressure output than when it initially came in.

The entire process involves multiple transfers of matter and energy between different states for compression to occur – making an air compressor a clear example of an open thermodynamic system.


an open refrigerator
an open refrigerator

A refrigerator is one of the most essential appliances in any home. It’s a tool that helps keep our food fresh, and allows us to store leftovers safely. Not only is it convenient, but it also provides peace of mind knowing that the food we consume is safe and healthy. Besides being a useful appliance for storing food and other perishables, a refrigerator is also an interesting example of open system thermodynamics.

In a refrigerator, heat is continually exchanged between the inside of a refrigerator and its environment. This exchange creates a dynamic and continuous system that helps regulate the temperature within.

Refrigerators are designed with two main components: an evaporator coil and a compressor motor. The evaporator coil absorbs heat from inside the unit using refrigerant gas, which cools down its contents while simultaneously warming up in temperature itself. The compressor then pumps this warm refrigerant gas away from the interior and releases it into the surrounding environment, where it can cool down until it’s ready to be used again.

Closed Systems

A closed system is defined as an environment or space in which energy flow can occur, but matter cannot enter or leave. This means that the amount of matter within a closed system will remain constant over time. On the other hand, energy can be exchanged between particles within the system and with its outside environment. Here are some examples of closed systems:

Close Lid Container

close lid container
close lid container

A closed-lid container is an essential part of any kitchen. It is a common container with a lid that can be used to store food and other items away from the environment, providing protection and hygiene. This type of container can also be considered a closed system in thermodynamics; a system where no energy or matter enters or exits the space.

The basic idea of a closed system is that it has no energy exchange with its environment – meaning that energy can neither enter nor leave the system. In the case of a closed-lid container, its walls act as a barrier that stops heat from entering or leaving the container, making it an ideal tool for keeping food warm or cool until it’s ready to be served.

Pressure Cooker

a pressure cooker
a pressure cooker

A pressure cooker is yet another example of a closed system that typically uses heat energy and temperature variations to build pressure inside the cookware. It’s an incredibly useful kitchen tool for busy people, as it can quickly and efficiently cook meals with minimal effort.

This closed system is designed so that the steam generated from boiling liquids cannot escape from the lid, allowing the contents to reach temperatures higher than what you could achieve boiling on a stovetop. This high-pressure environment results in faster cooking times compared to traditional methods – perfect for those who are always on the go! Additionally, because these systems are relatively airtight, they also help retain flavors and nutrients during cooking.


an aquarium
an aquarium

An aquarium can be an amazing addition to any home, providing a beautiful and tranquil environment. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing but it can also provide educational opportunities for young minds. An aquarium is essentially a closed system that allows you to keep aquatic plants and animals in a controlled environment, such as fish.

Aquariums can be considered a closed system in thermodynamics because it minimizes the exchange of matter and energy with their surrounding environment. This is an exciting concept, as it means that aquariums can maintain a stable and regulated environment. By controlling the amount of matter and energy that is exchanged with their surroundings, aquariums become self-sufficient ecosystems that rely on the careful balance of inputs and outputs to thrive.

The term ‘closed system’ refers to an isolated system that does not allow for any exchange of matter or energy between itself and its surroundings. Aquariums use this same principle by ensuring that there is no mixing of water or other materials with the outside world, meaning they can form dynamic yet self-contained ecosystems where fish, plants, bacteria, algae, and other organisms can survive without reliance on external sources.

Planet Earth

planet earth
planet earth

The Earth as a whole is a closed system, meaning it minimizes the exchange of matter with its surrounding environment while exchanging energy. This is because its atmosphere, oceans, and land masses all work together to maintain temperature and prevent the exchange of matter.

The atmosphere helps to protect the Earth from solar radiation and contains gases such as oxygen that are essential for life on our planet.

Oceans cover around 70% of the surface area of our planet and regulate global temperatures by acting as heat sinks or sources depending on their location.

Finally, land masses can also affect climate patterns due to differences in their topography, which affects rainfall patterns and air movement.

All these elements together create a closed system that helps minimize the amount of matter exchanged between itself and its surrounding environment while allowing energy to be exchanged freely.

Isolated Systems

An isolated system does not allow the exchange of both energy and matter with its surroundings. Here are some examples of isolated systems:

An inflated Balloon

inflated balloons
inflated balloons

A balloon can be considered an isolated system because its elastic surface acts as a barrier that prevents any exchange of matter between the interior and exterior of the balloon.

The boundary of this type of system is both rigid and flexible, allowing for changes in pressure and temperature within the balloon due to internal processes without any exchange of energy or matter with the outside environment. This means that while these changes occur, they cannot be attributed to external forces, making it a truly isolated system.


people wearing wetsuits
people wearing wetsuits

A wetsuit can be considered an isolated system in thermodynamics because it provides insulation to the wearer by trapping a thin layer of water. An isolated system does not exchange any energy with its surroundings, and this is exactly what a wetsuit does. Wetsuits are made from neoprene, which works by trapping tiny bubbles of air and water against the skin. This creates an insulating barrier that keeps warm water close to the body and prevents cooler water from entering in.

In this sense, the wetsuit acts as an isolated system, maintaining a stable temperature and insulation for the wearer, and reducing the exchange of heat with the surrounding environment. However, it is important to note that the wetsuit is not a perfectly isolated system, and heat can still be lost over time, particularly in extremely cold conditions or through leaks in the suit

The Universe

the universe
the universe

The universe can be considered an isolated system in thermodynamics because it contains all matter and energy, and there is no exchange of matter. In thermodynamics, an isolated system does not exchange either energy or matter with its surroundings. The entire universe fits this description perfectly – after all, where could any extra matter or energy come from? Everything we observe is contained within the universe itself and thus behaves as if it were an isolated system.

This idea has far-reaching implications that can help us better understand how the universe works on a fundamental level.


thermos bottle
thermos bottle

A thermos is a great example of an isolated system in thermodynamics. It’s designed to maintain the temperature of its contents while limiting the exchange of heat with the surrounding environment. The walls of the thermos act as a boundary separating what’s inside from what’s outside.

Most thermoses consist of two walls with either a vacuum or layer of insulation between them to slow down the rate of heat transfer from one side to another. This insulation prevents external temperatures from immediately affecting whatever is inside and vice versa, allowing it to maintain its intended temperature for longer periods.

It is important to note that a thermos is not an ideal isolated system, and heat can still escape if it is not well insulated or exposed to extreme temperatures over time. Nevertheless, a thermos remains an effective tool for maintaining the temperature of its contents and can be considered an isolated system in thermodynamics.

Final Thoughts

System types can be classified into three categories: open, closed, and isolated. Open systems allow matter and energy to flow in and out of the system, closed systems only allow energy to flow in and out, and isolated systems don’t allow either matter or energy to flow in or out.

Understanding the differences between these system types is important as they have significant implications for how we view the world around us. From the human body to refrigerators, and forest ecosystems to pressure cookers, examples of open and closed systems can be found everywhere in our daily lives.

By recognizing and understanding these systems, we can better appreciate the dynamic relationships between the individual and their environment.

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