Minimum entropy production and the optimization of heat engines

Peter Salamon*, Abraham Nitzan, Bjarne Andresen, R. Stephen Berry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


We consider the problem of minimum entropy production in a heat engine subject only to thermal-resistance losses. For such engines, minimizing the total entropy production is equivalent to minimizing the loss of availability. We show for any engine operating with a given cycle time that minimum total entropy production is achieved in a heat engine by operating it so as to keep the entropy production rate constant along each branch. For the limit of slow engine operation, the entropy production rate should be the same constant for all branches of the cycle. We obtain an expression for the minimum total entropy production and use this to give a bound on the maximum work which can be produced by such engines. This bound is significantly more realistic than the reversible one. Analogous results are derived for a working fluid which carries arbitrary flows from one potential to another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2115-2129
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1980


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