Computational thermodynamics and its applications

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Thermodynamics is a science concerning the state of a system, whether it is stable, metastable or unstable, when interacting with the surroundings. In this overview, fundamentals of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed through the combination of first and second laws of thermodynamics for open and nonequilibrium systems to demonstrate that the reversible equilibrium and irreversible nonequilibrium thermodynamics can be integrated to enhance the power and utilities of thermodynamics. The recent progresses in computational thermodynamics, the remaining challenges, and potential impacts in broad scientific fields are discussed. It is shown that computational thermodynamics enables the modeling of thermodynamics of a state as a function of both external and internal variables and quantitative calculations of a broad range of properties of a multicomponent system in terms of first and second derivatives of energy, including not only equilibrium states when there are no driving forces for any internal processes and but also non-equilibrium states with driving forces for internal processes. Consequently, external constraints such as fixed strain and internal degree of freedoms such as ordering and defects can be described in a coherent framework and applied to materials design. Furthermore, two important but largely overlooked aspects in thermodynamics will be discussed, i.e. the rigorous application of statistical thermodynamics with the probability of configurations and their contributions to system properties, and the applications of second derivatives of energy with respect to either two extensive variables or two potentials or a mixture of them in terms of understanding and predicting emergent behaviors, critical phenomena, kinetic coefficients, and mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-792
Number of pages48
JournalActa Materialia
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


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