Stationary State Thermodynamics
Classical thermodynamics characterizes macroscopic systems at equilibrium; statistical thermodynamics generates averages of thermodynamic parameters from microscopic molecular information. Irreversible thermodynamics explores macroscopic systems displaced, but close to equilibrium. However, the majority of systems are neither at or near equilibrium. Far from equilibrium, new phenomena require a more global examination of the roles of energy and organization. Far from equilibrium, a system might settle into a meta-stable equilibrium maintained by a flow of energy or particles. Far from equilibrium, a homogeneous system might spontaneously order. Reactive systems oscillate through metastable states without coming to a single stable equilibrium. Aspects of these more complicated phenomena are introduced using some simple models.