Scaling down the laws of thermodynamics
Thermodynamics provides a robust conceptual framework and set of laws that govern the exchange of energy and matter. Although these laws were originally articulated for macroscopic objects, it is hard to deny that nanoscale systems often exhibit “thermodynamic-like” behavior – biomolecular motors convert chemical fuel into mechanical work (like car engines), and individual polymer molecules exhibit hysteresis and dissipation when stretched and contracted (like rubber bands). To what extent can the macroscopic laws of thermodynamics be “scaled down” to apply to individual microscopic systems, and what new features emerge there at the nanoscale? I will review recent progress toward answering these questions, with a particular focus on the second law of thermodynamics.
- General public
- Institut de Physique
- Prof. Paolo De Los Rios