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A dissipative structure is a dissipative system that has a dynamical régime that is in some sense in a reproducible steady state. This reproducible steady state may be reached by natural evolution of the system, by artifice, or by a combination of these two.
A dissipative structure is characterized by the spontaneous appearance of symmetry breaking (anisotropy) and the formation of complex, sometimes chaotic, structures where interacting particles exhibit long range correlations. The term dissipative structure was coined by Russian-Belgian physical chemist Ilya Prigogine, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977 for his pioneering work on these structures. The dissipative structures considered by Prigogine have dynamical régimes that can be regarded as thermodynamically steady states, and sometimes at least can be described by suitable extremal principles in non-equilibrium thermodynamics.
Dissipative systems can also be used as a tool to study physical phenomena and complex systems. For example, a dissipative system involving self-assembly of nanowires has been used as a model to understand the relationship between entropy generation and the robustness of biological systems.
Dissipative systems in control theory
In systems and control theory, dissipative systems are dynamical systems with states , inputs and outputs , which satisfy the so-called "dissipation inequality".
A system is said to be dissipative if there exist a continuous nonnegative function of the real variable x, called the storage function, such that the following inequality, known as the dissipation inequality, always holds:
The function , where denotes the scalar product, is called the "supply rate".
The physical interpretation is that is the energy stored in the system, whereas is the energy that is supplied to the system. Other supply rates w=w(u,y) are also possible.
This notion has a strong connection with Lyapunov stability, where the storage functions may play, under certain conditions of controllability and observability of the dynamical system, the role of Lyapunov functions.
Roughly speaking, dissipativity theory is useful for the design of feedback control laws for linear and nonlinear systems. Dissipative systems theory has been discussed by V.M. Popov, J.C. Willems, D.J. Hill and P. Moylan. In the case of linear invariant systems[clarification needed], this is known as positive real transfer functions, and a fundamental tool is the so-called Kalman–Yakubovich–Popov lemma which relates the state space and the frequency domain properties of positive real systems[clarification needed]. Dissipative systems are still an active field of research in systems and control, due to their important applications.
Quantum dissipative systems
As quantum mechanics, and any classical dynamical system, relies heavily on Hamiltonian mechanics for which time is reversible, these approximations are not intrinsically able to describe dissipative systems. It has been proposed that in principle, one can couple weakly the system – say, an oscillator – to a bath, i.e., an assembly of many oscillators in thermal equilibrium with a broad band spectrum, and trace (average) over the bath. This yields a master equation which is a special case of a more general setting called the Lindblad equation that is the quantum equivalent of the classical Liouville equation. The well known form of this equation and its quantum counterpart takes time as a reversible variable over which to integrate, but the very foundations of dissipative structures imposes an irreversible and constructive role for time.
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