entropy


entropy

Measure of a system's energy that is unavailable for work, or of the degree of a system's disorder. When heat is added to a system held at constant temperature, the change in entropy is related to the change in energy, the pressure, the temperature, and the change in volume. Its magnitude varies from zero to the total amount of energy in a system. The concept, first proposed in 1850 by the German physicist Rudolf Clausius (1822–1888), is sometimes presented as the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy increases during irreversible processes such as spontaneous mixing of hot and cold gases, uncontrolled expansion of a gas into a vacuum, and combustion of fuel. In popular, nontechnical use, entropy is regarded as a measure of the chaos or randomness of a system.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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