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Comptes Rendus Physique
Volume 8, n° 5-6
pages 528-539 (juin 2007)
Doi : 10.1016/j.crhy.2007.04.018
Received : 26 Mars 2007 ; 
The nonequilibrium thermodynamics of small systems
La thermodynamique de non-équilibre des petits systèmes

Felix Ritort a, b,
a Department de Fisica Fonamental, Faculty of Physics, Universitat de Barcelona, Diagonal 647, 08028 Barcelona, Spain 
b CIBER de Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina, Instituto de Sanidad Carlos III C/Sinesio Delgado 6, Madrid, Spain 

Correspondence to: Department de Fisica Fonamental, Faculty of Physics, Universitat de Barcelona, Diagonal 647, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

Nonequilibrium thermodynamics of small systems describes energy exchange processes between a system and its environment in the low energy range of a few   where Brownian fluctuations are dominant. The main goal of this discipline is to identify the building blocks of a general theory describing energy fluctuations in nonequilibrium processes occurring in systems ranging from condensed matter physics to biophysics. In this article I discuss some aspects about fluctuation theorems and path thermodynamics that call for the necessity of a better understanding of large deviations in nonequilibrium statistical physics. I also emphasize how single molecule experiments are a valuable source of knowledge and information that can greatly contribute to the unveiling of the most important and relevant questions in this exciting field of research. To cite this article: F. Ritort, C. R. Physique 8 (2007).

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

La thermodynamique de non-équilibre des petits systèmes décrit les processus dʼéchanges dʼénergie entre un système et son environnement dans le domaine des basses énergies de quelques   où les fluctuations browniennes sont dominantes. Le but principal de cette discipline est dʼidentifier les blocs de construction dʼune théorie générale décrivant les fluctuations dʼénergie dans les processus de non-équilibre se produisant dans des systèmes sʼétendant depuis la physique de la matière condensée jusquʼà la biophysique. Dans cet article, je discute quelques aspects des théorèmes de fluctuations et de la thermodynamique des chemins qui nécessitent une meilleure compréhension des grandes déviations en physique statistique de non-équilibre. Je montre aussi comment les expériences sur des molécules individuelles constituent une précieuse source de connaissance et dʼinformation qui peut contribuer grandement à dévoiler les questions les plus importantes et pertinentes dans ce passionnant domaine de recherche. Pour citer cet article : F. Ritort, C. R. Physique 8 (2007).

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Keywords : Nonequilibrium thermodynamics, Single molecule experiments, Molecular biophysics

Mots-clés : Thermodynamique de non-équilibre, Expériences sur des molécules individuelles, Biophysique moléculaire

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