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Chemistry LibreTexts

10.1: Spontaneous Processes

  • Page ID
    15186
  • Entropy is a state function that is often erroneously referred to as the 'state of disorder' of a system. Qualitatively, entropy is simply a measure how much the energy of atoms and molecules become more spread out in a process and can be defined in terms of statistical probabilities of a system or in terms of the other thermodynamic quantities. Entropy is also the subject of the Second and Third laws of thermodynamics, which describe the changes in entropy of the universe with respect to the system and surroundings, and the entropy of substances, respectively.

    • Microstates
      Dictionaries define “macro” as large and “micro” as very small but a macrostate and a microstate in thermodynamics aren't just definitions of big and little sizes of chemical systems. Instead, they are two very different ways of looking at a system. A microstate is one of the huge number of different accessible arrangements of the molecules' motional energy* for a particular macrostate.
    • Simple Entropy Changes - Examples
      Several Examples are given to demonstrate how the statistical definition of entropy and the 2nd law can be applied. Phase Change, gas expansions, dilution, colligative properties and osmosis.
    • Statistical Entropy
      Entropy is a state function that is often erroneously referred to as the 'state of disorder' of a system. Qualitatively, entropy is simply a measure how much the energy of atoms and molecules become more spread out in a process and can be defined in terms of statistical probabilities of a system or in terms of the other thermodynamic quantities.
    • Statistical Entropy - Mass, Energy, and Freedom
      The energy or the mass of a part of the universe may increase or decrease, but only if there is a corresponding decrease or increase somewhere else in the universe. The freedom in that part of the universe may increase with no change in the freedom of the rest of the universe. There might be decreases in freedom in the rest of the universe, but the sum of the increase and decrease must result in a net increase.
    • The Molecular Basis for Understanding Simple Entropy Change
    • ‘Disorder’ in Thermodynamic Entropy
      Boltzmann’s sense of “increased randomness” as a criterion of the final equilibrium state for a system compared to initial conditions was not wrong.; it was his surprisingly simplistic conclusion: if the final state is random, the initial system must have been the opposite, i.e., ordered. “Disorder” was the consequence, to Boltzmann, of an initial “order” not — as is obvious today — of what can only be called a “prior, lesser but still humanly-unimaginable, large number of accessible microstate