Messanae Universitas Studiorum

Quantum thermodynamics: microscopic foundations of entropy and of entropy generation by irreversibility

Beretta, Gian Paolo (2005) Quantum thermodynamics: microscopic foundations of entropy and of entropy generation by irreversibility. In: Thermal theories of continua: survey and developments, September 25-30, 2005, Messina, Italy.


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What is the physical significance of entropy? What is the physical origin of irreversibility? Do entropy and irreversibility exist only for complex and macroscopic systems? Most physicists still accept and teach that the rationalization of these fundamental questions is given by Statistical Mechanics. Indeed, for everyday laboratory physics, the mathematical formalism of Statistical Mechanics (canonical and grand-canonical, Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac distributions) allows a successful description of the thermodynamic equilibrium properties of matter, including entropy values. However, as already recognized by Schrödinger in 1936, Statistical Mechanics is impaired by conceptual ambiguities and logical inconsistencies, both in its explanation of the meaning of entropy and in its implications on the concept of state of a system. An alternative theory has been developed by Gyftopoulos, Hatsopoulos and the present author to eliminate these stumbling conceptual blocks while maintaining the mathematical formalism so successful in applications. To resolve both the problem of the meaning of entropy and that of the origin of irreversibility we have built entropy and irreversibility into the laws of microscopic physics. The result is a theory, that we call Quantum Thermodynamics, that has all the necessary features to combine Mechanics and Thermodynamics uniting all the successful results of both theories, eliminating the logical inconsistencies of Statistical Mechanics and the paradoxes on irreversibility, and providing an entirely new perspective on the microscopic origin of irreversibility, nonlinearity (therefore including chaotic behavior) and maximal-entropy-generation nonequilibrium dynamics. In this paper we discuss the background and formalism of Quantum Thermodynamics including its nonlinear equation of motion and the main general results. Our objective is to show in a not-too-technical manner that this theory provides indeed a complete and coherent resolution of the century-old dilemma on the meaning of entropy and the origin of irreversibility, including Onsager reciprocity relations and maximal-entropy-generation nonequilibrium dynamics, which we believe provides the microscopic foundations of heat, mass and momentum transfer theories, including all their implications such as Bejan's Constructal Theory of natural phenomena.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M.U.S. - Contributi Scientifici > 02 - Scienze fisiche
M.U.S. - Miscellanea > Atti Accademia Peloritana > Classe di Scienze Fisiche, Matematiche e Naturali
Depositing User: Mr Nunzio Femminò
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2008
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2010 11:15

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