nLab thermodynamic limit




physics, mathematical physics, philosophy of physics

Surveys, textbooks and lecture notes

theory (physics), model (physics)

experiment, measurement, computable physics



In statistical physics the thermodynamic limit denotes the limiting behaviour of a physical system that consists of many components (particles) as

  • the volume VV and the number NN of particles tends to infinity;

  • the density ratio ρN/V\rho \coloneqq N/V approaches a constant value.

Many characteristic properties of macroscopic physical systems only appear in this limit, notably phase transitions, universality classes and other critical phenomena?.


Reviews and introductions include

  • The theory of the thermodynamic limit (pdf)

  • Daniel F. Styer, What good is the thermodynamic limit? American Journal of Physics – January 2004 – Volume 72, Issue 1, pp. 25

    Abstract Statistical mechanics applies to large systems: technically, its results are exact only for infinitely large systems in “the thermodynamic limit.” The importance of this proviso is often minimized in undergraduate courses. This paper presents six paradoxes in statistical mechanics that can be resolved only by acknowledging the thermodynamic limit. For example, it demonstrates that the widely used microcanonical “thin phase space limit” must be taken after taking the thermodynamic limit.

  • Ben Simons, Phase Transitions and Collective Phenomena (web)

  • C. N. Yang and T. D. Lee , Statistical Theory of Equations of State and Phase Transitions. I. Theory of Condensation, Phys. Rev. 87, 404–409 (1952)

Last revised on May 4, 2021 at 11:59:54. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.