
Physics 2009
Thermodynamics of nonequilibrium steady statesAbstract: We consider the problem of constructing a thermodynamic theory of nonequilibrium steady states as a formal extension of the equilibrium theory. Specifically, studying a particular system, we attempt to construct a phenomenological theory describing the interplay between heat and mechanical work that takes place during operations through which the system undergoes transitions between nonequilibrium steady states. We find that, in contrast to the case of the equilibrium theory, apparently, there exists no systematic way within a phenomenological formulation to describe the work done by the system during such operations. With this observation, we conclude that the attempt to construct a thermodynamic theory of nonequilibrium steady states in analogy to the equilibrium theory has limited prospects for success and that the pursuit of such a theory should be directed elsewhere.
