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Free Energy

Zhigang Suo's picture

For a system in thermal contact with the rest of the world, we have described three quantities: entropy, energy, and temperature. We have also described the idea of a constraint internal to the system, and associated this constraint to an internal variable.

The system can be isolated at a particular value of energy. For such an isolated system, of all values of the internal variable, the most probable value maximizes entropy. We will paraphrase this statement under two different conditions, either when the entropy is fixed, or when the temperature is fixed. Under these conditions, the system is no longer isolated. Consequently, we need to maximize or minimize quantities other than entropy.

To illustrate thermodynamic modeling, we study two types of phase transition. We use experimental observations to motivate the construction of the models.

Notes on free energy are posted below.  Return to the outline of Statistical Mechanics

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