Modeling the Non-equilibrium Phenomenon of Diffusion in Closed and Open Systems at an Atomistic Level Using Steepest-Entropy-Ascent Quantum Thermodynamics

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Intrinsic quantum Thermodynamics (IQT) is a theory that unifies thermodynamics and quantum mechanics into a single theory. Its mathematical framework, steepest-entropy-ascent quantum thermodynamics (SEAQT), can be used to model and describe the non-equilibrium phenomenon of diffusion based on the principle of steepest-entropy ascent. The research presented in this dissertation demonstrates the capability of this framework to model and describe diffusion at atomistic levels and is used here to develop a non-equilibrium-based model for an isolated system in which He3 diffuses in He4. The model developed is able to predict the non-equilibrium and equilibrium characteristics of diffusion as well as capture the differences in behavior of fermions (He3) and bosons (He4). The SEAQT framework is also used to develop the transient and steady-state model for an open system in which oxygen diffuses through a tin anode. The two forms of the SEAQT equation of motion are used. The first, which only involves a dissipation term, is applied to the state evolution of the isolated system as its state relaxes from some initial non-equilibrium state to stable equilibrium. The second form, the so-called extended SEAQT equation of motion, is applied to the transient state evolution of an open system undergoing a dissipative process as well mass-interactions with two mass reservoirs. In this case, the state of the system relaxes from some initial transient state to steady state. Model predictions show that the non-equilibrium thermodynamic path that the isolated system takes significantly alters the diffusion data from that of the equilibrium-based models for isolated atomistic-level systems found in literature. Nonetheless, the SEAQT equilibrium predications for He3 and He4 capture the same trends as those found in the literature providing a point of validation for the SEAQT framework. As to the SEAQT results for the open system, there is no data in the literature with which to compare since the results presented here are completely original to this work.



atomistic-level diffusion, non-equilibrium, transient, steady state diffusivities, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, steepest-entropy-ascent quantum thermodynamics.