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In the thermodynamics of equilibrium, a state function, function of state, or point function for a
thermodynamic system A thermodynamic system is a body of matter and/or radiation, confined in space by walls, with defined permeabilities, which separate it from its surroundings. The surroundings may include other thermodynamic systems, or physical systems that are ...
is a
mathematical function In mathematics, a function from a set to a set assigns to each element of exactly one element of .; the words map, mapping, transformation, correspondence, and operator are often used synonymously. The set is called the domain of the funct ...
relating several state variables or state quantities (that describe equilibrium states of a system) that depend only on the current equilibrium thermodynamic state of the system (e.g. gas, liquid, solid, crystal, or
emulsion An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (unmixable or unblendable) owing to liquid-liquid phase separation. Emulsions are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Althoug ...
), not the path which the system has taken to reach that state. A state function describes equilibrium states of a system, thus also describing the type of system. A state variable is typically a state function so the determination of other state variable values at an equilibrium state also determines the value of the state variable as the state function at that state. The
ideal gas law The ideal gas law, also called the general gas equation, is the equation of state of a hypothetical ideal gas. It is a good approximation of the behavior of many gases under many conditions, although it has several limitations. It was first st ...
is a good example. In this law, one state variable (e.g., pressure, volume, temperature, or the amount of substance in a gaseous equilibrium system) is a function of other state variables so is regarded as a state function. A state function could also describe the number of a certain type of atoms or molecules in a gaseous, liquid, or solid form in a
heterogeneous Homogeneity and heterogeneity are concepts often used in the sciences and statistics relating to the uniformity of a substance or organism. A material or image that is homogeneous is uniform in composition or character (i.e. color, shape, siz ...
or
homogeneous mixture In chemistry, a mixture is a material made up of two or more different chemical substances which are not chemically bonded. A mixture is the physical combination of two or more substances in which the identities are retained and are mixed in the ...
, or the amount of energy required to create such a system or change the system into a different equilibrium state.
Internal energy The internal energy of a thermodynamic system is the total energy contained within it. It is the energy necessary to create or prepare the system in its given internal state, and includes the contributions of potential energy and internal kinet ...
,
enthalpy Enthalpy , a property of a thermodynamic system, is the sum of the system's internal energy and the product of its pressure and volume. It is a state function used in many measurements in chemical, biological, and physical systems at a constant ...
, and
entropy Entropy is a scientific concept, as well as a measurable physical property, that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The term and the concept are used in diverse fields, from classical thermodyna ...
are examples of state quantities or state functions because they quantitatively describe an equilibrium state of a
thermodynamic system A thermodynamic system is a body of matter and/or radiation, confined in space by walls, with defined permeabilities, which separate it from its surroundings. The surroundings may include other thermodynamic systems, or physical systems that are ...
, regardless of how the system has arrived in that state. In contrast,
mechanical work In physics, work is the energy transferred to or from an object via the application of force along a displacement. In its simplest form, for a constant force aligned with the direction of motion, the work equals the product of the force stren ...
and
heat In thermodynamics, heat is defined as the form of energy crossing the boundary of a thermodynamic system by virtue of a temperature difference across the boundary. A thermodynamic system does not ''contain'' heat. Nevertheless, the term is al ...
are process quantities or path functions because their values depend on a specific "transition" (or "path") between two equilibrium states that a system has taken to reach the final equilibrium state. Heat (in certain discrete amounts) can describe a state function such as enthalpy, but in general, does not truly describe the system unless it is defined as the state function of a certain system, and thus enthalpy is described by an amount of heat. This can also apply to entropy when heat is compared to
temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses quantitatively the perceptions of hotness and coldness. Temperature is measured with a thermometer. Thermometers are calibrated in various temperature scales that historically have relied o ...
. The description breaks down for quantities exhibiting
hysteresis Hysteresis is the dependence of the state of a system on its history. For example, a magnet may have more than one possible magnetic moment in a given magnetic field, depending on how the field changed in the past. Plots of a single component of ...
.

# History

It is likely that the term "functions of state" was used in a loose sense during the 1850s and 1860s by those such as
Rudolf Clausius Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius (; 2 January 1822 – 24 August 1888) was a German physicist and mathematician and is considered one of the central founding fathers of the science of thermodynamics. By his restatement of Sadi Carnot's principle ...
,
William Rankine William John Macquorn Rankine (; 5 July 1820 – 24 December 1872) was a Scottish mechanical engineer who also contributed to civil engineering, physics and mathematics. He was a founding contributor, with Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson ...
,
Peter Tait Peter Tait may refer to: * Peter Tait (physicist) (1831–1901), Scottish mathematical physicist * Peter Tait (footballer) (1936–1990), English professional footballer * Peter Tait (mayor) (1915–1996), New Zealand politician * Peter Tait (r ...
, and William Thomson. By the 1870s, the term had acquired a use of its own. In his 1873 paper "Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids", Willard Gibbs states: "The quantities ''v'', ''p'', ''t'', ''ε'', and ''η'' are determined when the state of the body is given, and it may be permitted to call them ''functions of the state of the body''."

# Overview

A thermodynamic system is described by a number of thermodynamic parameters (e.g. temperature,
volume Volume is a measure of occupied three-dimensional space. It is often quantified numerically using SI derived units (such as the cubic metre and litre) or by various imperial or US customary units (such as the gallon, quart, cubic inch). The de ...
, or
pressure Pressure (symbol: ''p'' or ''P'') is the force applied perpendicular to the surface of an object per unit area over which that force is distributed. Gauge pressure (also spelled ''gage'' pressure)The preferred spelling varies by country and ...
) which are not necessarily independent. The number of parameters needed to describe the system is the dimension of the
state space A state space is the set of all possible configurations of a system. It is a useful abstraction for reasoning about the behavior of a given system and is widely used in the fields of artificial intelligence and game theory. For instance, the to ...
of the system (). For example, a monatomic gas with a fixed number of particles is a simple case of a two-dimensional system (). Any two-dimensional system is uniquely specified by two parameters. Choosing a different pair of parameters, such as pressure and volume instead of pressure and temperature, creates a different coordinate system in two-dimensional thermodynamic state space but is otherwise equivalent. Pressure and temperature can be used to find volume, pressure and volume can be used to find temperature, and temperature and volume can be used to find pressure. An analogous statement holds for
higher-dimensional space In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a mathematical space (or object) is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it. Thus, a line has a dimension of one (1D) because only one coordi ...
s, as described by the state postulate. Generally, a state space is defined by an equation of the form $F\left(P, V, T, \ldots\right) = 0$, where denotes pressure, denotes temperature, denotes volume, and the ellipsis denotes other possible state variables like particle number and entropy . If the state space is two-dimensional as in the above example, it can be visualized as a three-dimensional graph (a surface in three-dimensional space). However, the labels of the axes are not unique (since there are more than three state variables in this case), and only two independent variables are necessary to define the state. When a system changes state continuously, it traces out a "path" in the state space. The path can be specified by noting the values of the state parameters as the system traces out the path, whether as a function of time or a function of some other external variable. For example, having the pressure and volume as functions of time from time to will specify a path in two-dimensional state space. Any function of time can then be integrated over the path. For example, to calculate the work done by the system from time to time , calculate $W(t_0,t_1) = \int_0^1 P \, dV = \int_^ P(t) \frac \, dt$. In order to calculate the work in the above integral, the functions and must be known at each time over the entire path. In contrast, a state function only depends upon the system parameters' values at the endpoints of the path. For example, the following equation can be used to calculate the work plus the integral of over the path: :$\begin \Phi\left(t_0,t_1\right) &= \int_^P\frac\,dt + \int_^V\frac\,dt \\ &= \int_^\frac\,dt = P\left(t_1\right)V\left(t_1\right)-P\left(t_0\right)V\left(t_0\right). \end$ In the equation, the integrand can be expressed as the
exact differential In multivariate calculus, a differential or differential form is said to be exact or perfect (''exact differential''), as contrasted with an inexact differential, if it is equal to the general differential dQ for some differentiable function&nbs ...
of the function . Therefore, the integral can be expressed as the difference in the value of at the end points of the integration. The product is therefore a state function of the system. The notation will be used for an exact differential. In other words, the integral of will be equal to . The symbol will be reserved for an inexact differential, which cannot be integrated without full knowledge of the path. For example, will be used to denote an infinitesimal increment of work. State functions represent quantities or properties of a thermodynamic system, while non-state functions represent a process during which the state functions change. For example, the state function is proportional to the
internal energy The internal energy of a thermodynamic system is the total energy contained within it. It is the energy necessary to create or prepare the system in its given internal state, and includes the contributions of potential energy and internal kinet ...
of an ideal gas, but the work is the amount of energy transferred as the system performs work. Internal energy is identifiable; it is a particular form of energy. Work is the amount of energy that has changed its form or location.

# List of state functions

The following are considered to be state functions in thermodynamics: *
Mass Mass is an intrinsic property of a body. It was traditionally believed to be related to the quantity of matter in a physical body, until the discovery of the atom and particle physics. It was found that different atoms and different elemen ...
*
Energy In physics, energy (from Ancient Greek: ἐνέργεια, ''enérgeia'', “activity”) is the quantitative property that is transferred to a body or to a physical system, recognizable in the performance of work and in the form of h ...
() **
Enthalpy Enthalpy , a property of a thermodynamic system, is the sum of the system's internal energy and the product of its pressure and volume. It is a state function used in many measurements in chemical, biological, and physical systems at a constant ...
() **
Internal energy The internal energy of a thermodynamic system is the total energy contained within it. It is the energy necessary to create or prepare the system in its given internal state, and includes the contributions of potential energy and internal kinet ...
() **
Gibbs free energy In thermodynamics, the Gibbs free energy (or Gibbs energy; symbol G) is a thermodynamic potential that can be used to calculate the maximum amount of work that may be performed by a thermodynamically closed system at constant temperature and pr ...
() **
Helmholtz free energy In thermodynamics, the Helmholtz free energy (or Helmholtz energy) is a thermodynamic potential that measures the useful work obtainable from a closed thermodynamic system at a constant temperature (isothermal). The change in the Helmholtz ene ...
() **
Exergy In thermodynamics, the exergy of a system is the maximum useful work possible during a process that brings the system into equilibrium with a heat reservoir, reaching maximum entropy. When the surroundings are the reservoir, exergy is the pote ...
() *
Entropy Entropy is a scientific concept, as well as a measurable physical property, that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The term and the concept are used in diverse fields, from classical thermodyna ...
() *
Pressure Pressure (symbol: ''p'' or ''P'') is the force applied perpendicular to the surface of an object per unit area over which that force is distributed. Gauge pressure (also spelled ''gage'' pressure)The preferred spelling varies by country and ...
() *
Temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses quantitatively the perceptions of hotness and coldness. Temperature is measured with a thermometer. Thermometers are calibrated in various temperature scales that historically have relied o ...
() *
Volume Volume is a measure of occupied three-dimensional space. It is often quantified numerically using SI derived units (such as the cubic metre and litre) or by various imperial or US customary units (such as the gallon, quart, cubic inch). The de ...
() * Chemical composition *
Pressure altitude Pressure altitude is the altitude in the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA) with the same atmospheric pressure as that of the part of the atmosphere in question. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published the follow ...
*
Specific volume In thermodynamics, the specific volume of a substance (symbol: , nu) is an intrinsic property of the substance, defined as the ratio of the substance's volume () to its mass (). It is the reciprocal of density ( rho) and it is related to the ...
() or its reciprocal
density Density (volumetric mass density or specific mass) is the substance's mass per unit of volume. The symbol most often used for density is ''ρ'' (the lower case Greek letter rho), although the Latin letter ''D'' can also be used. Mathematicall ...
() *
Particle number The particle number (or number of particles) of a thermodynamic system, conventionally indicated with the letter ''N'', is the number of constituent particles in that system. The particle number is a fundamental parameter in thermodynamics which i ...
()

* Markov property *
Conservative vector field In vector calculus, a conservative vector field is a vector field that is the gradient of some function. A conservative vector field has the property that its line integral is path independent; the choice of any path between two points does not ...
* Nonholonomic system *
Equation of state In physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics, an equation of state is a thermodynamic equation relating state variables, which describe the state of matter under a given set of physical conditions, such as pressure, volume, temperature, or interna ...
*
State variable A state variable is one of the set of variables that are used to describe the mathematical "state" of a dynamical system. Intuitively, the state of a system describes enough about the system to determine its future behaviour in the absence of a ...

* * *