Non-equilibrium Thermodynamic Approach Based on the Steepest-Entropy-Ascent Framework Applicable across All Temporal and Spatial Scales
In this research, a first-principles, non-equilibrium thermodynamic-ensemble approach applicable across all temporal and spatial scales is developed based on steepest-entropy-ascent quantum thermodynamics (SEAQT). The SEAQT framework provides an equation of motion consisting of both reversible mechanical dynamics and irreversible relaxation dynamics, which is able to describe the evolution of any state of any system, equilibrium or non-equilibrium. Its key feature is that the irreversible dynamics is based on a gradient dynamics in system state space instead of the microscopic mechanics of more traditional approaches. System energy eigenstructure and density operator (or ensemble probability distribution) describe the system and system thermodynamic state, respectively. Extensive properties (i.e., energy, entropy, and particle number) play a key role in formulating the equation of motion and in describing non-equilibrium state evolutions. All the concepts involved in this framework (i.e., eigentstructure, density operator, and extensive properties) are well defined at all temporal and spatial scales leading to the extremely broad applicability of SEAQT.
The focus of the present research is that of developing non-equilibrium thermodynamic models based specifically on the irreversible part of the equation of motion of SEAQT and applying these to the study of pure relaxation processes of systems in non-equilibrium states undergoing chemical reactions and heat and mass diffusion. As part of the theoretical investigation, the new concept of hypo-equilibrium state is introduced and developed. It is able to describe any non-equilibrium state going through a pure relaxation process and is a generalization of the concept of stable equilibrium of equilibrium thermodynamics to the non-equilibrium realm. Using the concept of hypo-equilibrium state, it is shown that non-equilibrium intensive properties can be fundamentally defined throughout the relaxation process. The definition of non-equilibrium intensive properties also relies on various ensemble descriptions of system state. In this research, three SEAQT ensemble descriptions, i.e., the canonical, grand canonical, and isothermal-isobaric, are derived corresponding, respectively, to the definition of temperature, chemical potential, and pressure. To computationally and not just theoretically permit the application of the SEAQT framework across all scales, a density of states method is developed, which is applicable to solving the SEAQT equation of motion for all types of non-equilibrium relaxation processes. In addition, a heterogeneous multiscale method (HMM) algorithm is also applied to extend the application of the SEAQT framework to multiscale modeling. Applications of this framework are given for systems involving chemical kinetics, the heat and mass diffusion of indistinguishable particles, power cycles, and the complex, coupled reaction-diffusion pathways of a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) cathode.