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Published: Jun.6.2014

Experimental Test of a Second Law Paradox

D.P. Sheehan
Dept. of Physics, University of San Diego
San Diego, CA 92110
[email protected]

In 2000, Duncan proposed a simple thermodynamic paradox: a sealed blackbody cavity contains a diatomic gas and a radiometer whose apposing vane surfaces dissociate the dimer and recombine the monomers to different degrees [1,2]. Owing to differing desorption rates of the dimers and monomers, there arise between the vane faces permanent pressure and temperature differences, either of which can be harnessed to perform work, in conflict with the second law of thermodynamics [3]. This paper reports on the first experimental realization of this paradox [4], involving the dissociation of low-pressure hydrogen gas on high-temperature refractory metals (tungsten and rhenium). The results, corroborated by other laboratory studies [5] and supported by theory [6,7], confirm Duncan's paradoxical temperature difference and point to physics beyond the traditional understanding of the second law. Potential applications of these results and current research to extend them to room temperature will be discussed.

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[2] D.P. Sheehan, Phys. Rev. E 61, 4662 (2000).
[3] V. Capek and D.P. Sheehan, {\em Challenges to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Theory and Experiment)}; Vol. 146 Fundamental Theories of Physics Series, (Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 2005).
[4] D.P. Sheehan, D.P., D.J. Mallin, J.T. Garamella, and W.F. Sheehan, Found. Phys. 44, 235 (2014).
[5] D.P. Sheehan, Phys. Lett. A 280, 185 (2001).
[6] D.P. Sheehan, Phys. Rev. E 57, 6660 (1998).
[7] D.P. Sheehan, Phys. Rev. E 88, 032125 (2013).