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Sep 19, 2020

Physicists Break 150-Year-Old Rule for Phase Behavior – Something Many Considered Impossible

Posted by in categories: chemistry, physics

Eindhoven University of Technology researchers found five different phases in mixtures of two substances.

Frozen water can take on up to three forms at the same time when it melts: liquid, ice, and gas. This principle, which states that many substances can occur in up to three phases simultaneously, was explained 150 years ago by the Gibbs phase rule. Today, researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology and University Paris-Saclay are defying this classical theory, with proof of a five-phase equilibrium, something that many scholars considered impossible. This new knowledge yields useful insights for industries that work with complex mixtures, such as in the production of mayonnaise, paint, or LCD’s. The researchers have published their results in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The founder of contemporary thermodynamics and physical chemistry is the American physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs. In the 1870s he derived the phase rule, which describes the maximum number of different phases a substance or mixture of substances can assume simultaneously. For pure substances, the Gibbs Phase Rule predicts a maximum of 3 phases.

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