Scaling Theory and the Classification of Phase Transitions

R. Hilfer

Mod. Phys. Lett. B 6, 773 (1992)

submitted on
Monday, May 11, 1992

The recent classification theory for phase transitions (R. Hilfer, Physica Scripta 44, 321 (1991)) and its relation with the foundations of statistical physics is reviewed. First it is outlined how Ehrenfests classification scheme can be generalized into a general thermodynamic classification theory for phase transitions. The classification theory implies scaling and multiscaling thereby eliminating the need to postulate the scaling hypothesis as a fourth law of thermodynamics. The new classification has also led to the discovery and distinction of nonequilibrium transitions within equilibrium statistical physics. Nonequilibrium phase transitions are distinguished from equilibrium transitions by orders less than unity and by the fact that equilibrium thermodynamics and statistical mechanics become inapplicable at the critical point. The latter fact requires a change in the Gibbs assumption underlying the canonical and grandcanonical ensembles in order to recover the thermodynamic description in the critical limit.

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