Title: Is sustainability a thermodynamic concept?

Authors: Enrico Sciubba, Federico Zullo

Addresses: Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, University of Roma La Sapienza, Via Eudossiana, 18 00184 Roma, Italy. ' Department of Physics, University of Roma Tre, & Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Section of Roma Tre, Via della Vasca Navale 84, 00146 Roma, Italy

Abstract: When calculating the |degree of sustainability|, socio-economic parameters and |natural capital| are not easily quantified, and the question of the physical meaning of |sustainability| in Thermodynamics remains relevant. On the basis of one single axiom: resource consumption of any kind can be quantified solely in terms of exergy flows, we demonstrate that for sufficiently complex systems certain thresholds – in terms of system|s parameters – appear, below or beyond which the system exhibits an ability to remain in a self-preserving (sustainable) state. The analysis leads to non-trivial solutions in phase space, and some schematic examples are discussed in the paper: the results show a trend that seems to deserve further consideration.

Keywords: sustainability; population dynamics; extended exergy accounting; logistic equation; thermodynamics; sustainable development; resource consumption; exergy flows.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEX.2011.037215

International Journal of Exergy, 2011 Vol.8 No.1, pp.68 - 85

Published online: 30 Nov 2010 *

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