Abstract

The concept of available energy, as defined by Gibbs (1873b) is revisited. He gave representations of available energy for two circumstances. The first was the available energy of a “body,” for the case when a body, alone, is in a nonequilibrium condition and therefore has energy available. In turn, he presented the available energy of “the body and medium,” for the energy which is available because a body is not in equilibrium with some arbitrarily specified medium. Gibbs’ representations were graphical. Since Gibbs, representations with formulas have been developed and are common, for the “available energy of body and medium.”

Gaggioli (1998a, b) has developed formulas which are more general, to represent “the available energy of the body (alone)” and to assign an exergy to subsystems of the body as a measure of each sub-system’s contribution to the available energy. In contrast to the available energy, exergy is an additive property, so that balance equations can be written. And the formulas are independent from any “medium,” which is important both theoretically and practically — because of its relevance to proper selection of “the dead state.” These issues are discussed and extended, after reviewing Gibbs development of available energy and additional concepts which he introduced, such as “available vacuum” and “capacity for entropy.”

It is argued that these “availabililty” and “capacity” concepts are all equivalent to one another. In turn, because of interconvertability, it is seen that available energy is something more fundamental than “maximum useful work.”

Furthermore, it is illustrated that available energy, equilibrium and stability, and thermostatic property relations are relative, to “constraints.”

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