Experimental Test of a Thermodynamic Paradox

Foundations of Physics 44 (3):235-247 (2014)

Abstract
In 2000, a simple, foundational thermodynamic paradox was proposed: a sealed blackbody cavity contains a diatomic gas and a radiometer whose apposing vane surfaces dissociate and recombine the gas to different degrees (A $_{2} \rightleftharpoons $ 2A). As a result of differing desorption rates for A and A $_{2}$ , there arise between the vane faces permanent pressure and temperature differences, either of which can be harnessed to perform work, in apparent conflict with the second law of thermodynamics. Here we report on the first experimental realization of this paradox, involving the dissociation of low-pressure hydrogen gas on high-temperature refractory metals (tungsten and rhenium) under blackbody cavity conditions. The results, corroborated by other laboratory studies and supported by theory, confirm the paradoxical temperature difference and point to physics beyond the traditional understanding of the second law
Keywords Second law of thermodynamics  Nonequilibrium  Catalysis  Paradox
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DOI 10.1007/s10701-014-9781-5
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