PhD Scholarship - Foundations of entropy far from equilibrium
Swinburne University of Technology

Closing date: 10th November 2015

Description

This project will attempt to answer one of the most fundamental and controversial questions in contemporary thermodynamics and statistical mechanics: can the entropy of a naturally occurring dissipative system be described by the classical Gibbs definition of the entropy? The latter relies on being able to compute the probability distribution function of the system under consideration, such as an ensemble of molecules. However, it has been shown by non-equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations that the probability distribution function for a thermostatted dissipative system of atoms is multi-fractal. As such, the distribution function diverges to infinity. This has been used as an argument that the Gibbs definition of the entropy away from equilibrium is fundamentally flawed, and hence the very foundations of thermodynamics far from equilibrium is wrong. As thermodynamics underpins almost every engineering and technological process known to man, there is hardly a more profound question that needs answering in 21st century science and technology.

Our project, a collaboration between researchers at Swinburne University of Technology and Imperial College London, attempts to revisit this fundamental question from a unique and previously unconsidered perspective that will draw from the fields of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, molecular dynamics and irreversible thermodynamics. We will perform computer simulations and theoretical analysis in which the fractal nature of the distribution function is carefully tested by suitable mechanisms that extract heat from a system in a more natural way to more faithfully mimic the dissipative processes that occur in nature.

Skills

We seek to recruit a high achieving and talented PhD student with at least a first class honors degree in either physics, applied mathematics or theoretical chemistry. Ideally students should have a very solid background in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, as well as strong computing skills in a language such as C/C++. Some knowledge of dynamical systems theory and chaos will also be an advantage.

The student will be based at Swinburne University of Technology, though it is anticipated that some travel to Imperial College may be required.

Supervisors

Application Process

Interested applicants should in the first instance contact Prof Billy Todd (btodd@swin.edu.au). Expressions of interest can then be lodged online here.



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