On the limitations of total entropy criterion

Li Guo, Zhiqiang Zhou*, Qiang Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In interpreting and teaching of the laws of thermodynamics, the system and its immediate surroundings are usually combined to constitute a composite isolated system to use the principle of entropy increase for predicting the spontaneity of a process, and even of a process in the original system, which is called total entropy criterion. This paper discusses the limitations of the “total entropy criterion” by giving real examples and theoretical derivation, and points out that it is suspected of “changing the object of study”, “giving an irrelevant answer”, and a regression from the principle of entropy increase.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100380
JournalThermal Science and Engineering Progress
Early online date16 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Principle of entropy increase
  • Second law of thermodynamics
  • Spontaneity
  • Total entropy criterion


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