Equilibrium thermodynamics

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Equilibrium Thermodynamics is the systematic study of transformations of matter and energy in systems as they approach equilibrium. The word equilibrium implies a state of balance. Equilibrium thermodynamics, in origins, derives from analysis of the Carnot cycle. Here, typically a system, as cylinder of gas, is set out of balance via heat input from a combustion reaction. Then, through a series of steps, as the system settles into its final equilibrium state, work is extracted.

In an equilibrium state there are no unbalanced potentials, or driving forces, within the system. A central aim in equilibrium thermodynamics is: given a system in a well-defined initial state, subject to accurately specified constraints, to calculate what the state of the system will be once it has reached equilibrium. An equilibrium state is obtained by seeking the extrema of a thermodynamic potential function, whose nature depends on the constraints imposed on the system. For example, a chemical reaction at constant temperature and pressure will reach equilibrium at a minimum of its components' Gibbs free energy and a maximum of their entropy.

Equilibrium thermodynamics differs from non-equilibrium thermodynamics, in that, with the latter, the state of the system under investigation will typically not be uniform but will vary locally in those as energy, entropy, and temperature distributions as gradients are imposed by dissipative thermodynamic fluxes. In equilibrium thermodynamics, by contrast, the state of the system will be considered uniform throughout, defined macroscopically by those quantities as temperature, pressure, or volume. Here, typically, systems are studied as they change from one state to another

Ruppeiner geometry is a type of information geometry used to study thermodynamics. It claims that thermodynamic systems can be represented by Riemannian geometry, and that statistical properties can be derived from the model. This geometrical model is based on the idea that there exist equilibrium states which can be represented by points on two-dimensional surface and the distance between these equilibrium states is related to the fluctuation between them.

See also[edit]


  • Adkins, C.J. (1983). Equilibrium Thermodynamics, 3rd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cengel, Y. & Boles, M. (2002). Thermodynamics – an Engineering Approach, 4th Ed. (textbook). New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Kondepudi, D. & Prigogine, I. (2004). Modern Thermodynamics – From Heat Engines to Dissipative Structures (textbook). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Perrot, P. (1998). A to Z of Thermodynamics (dictionary). New York: Oxford University Press.