473967 Systematic Approach Towards Establishing Thermodynamic Principles of Sustainable Coupled Industrial-Natural Systems (CINS)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016: 12:55 PM
Union Square 14 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Shweta Singh, Agricultural and Biological Engg/ Env & Ecological Engg., Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Fundamentals of thermodynamics apply to wide variety of systems at multiple scales such as materials and biogeochemical cycles (1, 2) - ranging from quantum to planetary scale. It will not be an exaggeration to say that systems that violate physical laws of thermodynamics cannot exist as stable systems. This raises two very critical questions for the field of sustainability: a) What are the thermodynamic principles of sustainability science and b) How do we approach hypothesizing, establishing and validation of these principles in a scientifically rigorous way? For the first question, I will qualitatively present some plausible theories of thermodynamics in context of sustainability such as Maximum Entropy principle (3) and non-equilibrium thermodynamics (4). For the second question, I will present a framework that can be adopted to study thermodynamic properties of coupled industrial-natural systems (CINS) and relating it to approaches for testing the applicability of thermodynamic principles for CINS. The quantitative study will focus on the thermodynamic properties of nutrient flows (Nitrogen) in an industrial ecosystems coupled with regional-ecological nitrogen cycle. Following the course of establishment of thermodynamic laws in other fields, it is suggested that quantitative modeling framework to observe thermodynamic properties over a long span may provide clues to answer question 1 whereas more validation approaches may need to be developed for drawing some general principles.


  1. D Panagiotaras et al., 2015, “Biogeochemical Cycling of Nutrients and Thermodynamic Aspects”, J. Thermodynamic Catalysis, 6:2
  2. J.J. Vallino and C.K. Algar, 2016, “The Thermodynamics of Marine Biogeochemical Cycles : Lotka Revisited”, Annu. Rev. Mar. Science , 8:333-356
  3. R. E. Ulanowicz and B.M. Hannon, 1987, “Life and the production of entropy”, Proc. R. Soc. Lond., B 232, 181-192
  4. C.G. Chakrabarti and K. Ghosh, 2009, “Non-equilibrium thermodynamics of ecosystems : Entropic analysis of stability and diversity”, Ecological Modelling, 220, 1950-1956

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