Ilya Prigogine Nobel Laureate pioneer in thermodynamics explained irreversible thermodynamics

Ilya Prigogine – pioneer in thermodynamics

Article on Ilya Prigogine Nobel Laureate

Biography & contributions

Ilya Prigogine was a Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate born on January 25, 1917 – died on May 28, 2003. Prigogine was well known for his dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility.

He was also the winner of many notable prizes and awards like Francqui Prize in the year of 1955, Rumford Medal in the year of 1976, Nobel Prize in the year of 1977.

He discovered importation and dissipation of energy into chemical systems. Prigogine developed mathematical models to explain irreversible thermodynamics. He gave explanations regarding dissipative structures and their role in thermodynamic systems.

Further in later years he aimed at fundamental role of Indeterminism in nonlinear systems on both the classical and quantum level. Prigogine and coworkers proposed a Liouville space extension of quantum mechanics.

Prigogine was unhappy with the work of Ludwig Boltzmann which showed how macroscopic irreversibility could arise from microscopic reversibility as a result of statistical considerations.  It is also well known that the steady flow of energy which originates in the sun and the stars prevents the atmosphere of the earth or stars from reaching a state of thermodynamic equilibrium. Prigogine notes numerous examples of irreversibility, including diffusion, radioactive decay, solar radiation, weather and the emergence and evolution of life.

Prigogine believed that before him, there was "no direction of time, no distinction between past and future," because even quantum mechanics, in the form of Schrödinger's deterministic wave equation, could not do so Prigogine introduced what he called a "third time" into physics - time as irreversibility. He saw non-equilibrium, dissipative systems far from equilibrium, as a new source of order giving to the system ill-defined "new space-time properties."

Dissipative system

A dissipative system is a thermodynamically open system which is operating out of, and often far from, thermodynamic equilibrium in an environment with which it exchanges energy and matter. A dissipative structure is a dissipative system that has a dynamical régime that is in some sense in a reproducible steady state. Examples in everyday life include convection, cyclones, hurricanes and living organisms. Less common examples include lasers, Bénard cells, and the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction.

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