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Thermodynamics and Chemistry: How Does a Theory Formulated without Reference to Matter Explain the Properties of Matter?

G. K. Vemulapalli
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 77, No. 5 (December 2010), pp. 911-920
DOI: 10.1086/657481
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/657481
Page Count: 10
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Thermodynamics and Chemistry: How Does a Theory Formulated without Reference to Matter Explain the Properties of Matter?
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Abstract

Varieties of chemical and phase equilibria are controlled by the minimum Gibbs energy principle, according to which the Gibbs energy for a system will have the minimum value at any given temperature and pressure. It is understood that the minimum is with respect to all nonequilibrium states at the same temperature and pressure. The abstract relation between Gibbs energy and the equilibrium constant is deduced from fundamental laws of thermodynamics. However, actual use of this relation calls for the Gibbs energy as a function of concentrations of the chemicals. Since thermodynamics is formulated without any reference to materials, how does one get that relation? This article provides the answer, and in the process shows that application of theory to experiments requires several intermediate layers where theory and experiment commingle.

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