1Fundamentals of statistical mechanics
II Statistical Physics
1.4 Helmholtz free energy
In the microcanonical ensemble, we discussed the second law of thermodynamics,
namely the entropy increases with time and the maximum is achieved in an
But this is no longer true in the case of the canonical ensemble, because
we now want to maximize the total entropy of the system plus the heat bath,
instead of just the system itself. Then is there a proper analogous quantity for
the canonical ensemble?
The answer is given by the Helmholtz free energy.
Definition (Helmholtz free energy). The Helmholtz free energy is
F = hEi − T S.
As before, we will often drop the h·i.
In general, in an isolated system,
is maximized in equilib-
rium. In a system with a reservoir,
minimizes in equilibrium.
In some sense F captures the competition between entropy and energy.
Now is there anything analogous to the first law
dE = T dS − p dV ?
Using this, we can write
dF = dE − d(T S) = −S dT − p dV.
When we wrote down the original first law, we had d
on the right,
and thus it is natural to consider energy as a function of entropy and volume
(instead of pressure and temperature). Similarly, It is natural to think of
. Mathematically, the relation between
is the Legendre transform of E.
From this expression, we can immediately write down
S = −
and the pressure is
p = −
As always, we can express the free energy in terms of the partition function.
F = −kT log Z.
Z = e
Proof. We use the fact that
Then we can start from
F = E − T S
∂ log Z
− T S
∂ log Z
(T log Z)
= −kT log Z,
and we are done. Good.