Schematic plot of a system with a movable wall.

Transient dynamics in the outflow of energy from a system in a nonequilibrium stationary state

J. P. Zuk, K. Makuch, R. Holyst, A. Maciolek

Physical Review E, 2022


We investigate the thermal relaxation of an ideal gas from a nonequilibrium stationary state. The gas is enclosed between two walls, which initially have different temperatures. After making one of the walls adiabatic, the system returns to equilibrium. We notice two distinct modes of heat transport and associated timescales: one connected with a traveling heat front and the other with internal energy diffusion. At the heat front, which moves at the speed of sound, pressure, temperature, and density change abruptly, leaving lower values behind. This is unlike a shock wave, a sound wave, or a thermal wave. The front moves multiple times between the walls and is the dominant heat transport mode until surpassed by diffusion. We found that it can constitute an order 1 factor in shaping the dynamics of the outflow of internal energy. We found that cooling such a system is quicker than heating, and that hotter bodies cool down quicker than colder ones. The latter is known as the Mpemba effect.

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