Press ESC to close

Enthalpy vs Entropy

Enthalpy vs Entropy a small intro:

Enthalpy represents the total heat content of a system, while entropy measures the degree of disorder or randomness. Together, these concepts help us make sense of chemical reactions, phase changes, and equilibrium.

Now we will learn some differences between Enthalpy vs Entropy in a tabular form.

Difference  Between Enthalpy and Entropy


Property Enthalpy Entropy
definition Enthalpy (H) is the total heat content of a system, including internal energy and the energy required to create or maintain the system’s pressure and volume. Entropy (S) is a measure of the amount of disorder or randomness in a system. It is also related to the number of possible microscopic configurations of a system.
Symbol H S
unit Joules (J) or calories (cal) Joules per kelvin (J/K) or entropy units (J/mol·K)
State function Enthalpy is a state function, meaning it depends only on the initial and final states of a system and not on the path taken to reach those states. Entropy is also a state function, and it obeys the same principles as enthalpy in this regard.
Change ΔH (Change in enthalpy) ΔS (Change in entropy)
Relation to energy transfer Enthalpy is associated with energy transfer as heat during a constant pressure process. It accounts for both heat exchange and work done on the system or by the system. Entropy is related to the direction and spontaneity of processes. Systems tend to move towards higher entropy (disorder) states in isolated systems.
Influence on phase change enthalpy y is significant in phase changes, as it includes the heat of fusion (melting) and heat of vaporization (boiling). Entropy is also important in phase changes, as substances tend to have higher entropy in the gaseous phase compared to the solid or liquid phases.
Change in reversible process In a reversible process, ΔH is the heat exchanged with the surroundings. In a reversible process, ΔS represents the change in entropy of the system.
Standard State Enthalpy values are commonly reported at standard state conditions (1 atm pressure and a specified temperature). Entropy values are typically reported at standard molar entropy conditions.
Formula H = U + PV (Enthalpy is related to internal energy U, pressure P, and volume V) S = k ln W (Entropy is related to the Boltzmann constant k and the number of microstates W)

The Laws of Thermodynamics: Understanding the Fundamentals

The laws of thermodynamics are fundamental principles that help us understand how energy behaves in various systems. Two key concepts in thermodynamics are enthalpy and entropy, which play crucial roles in determining the behavior of energy within a system.

The First Law: Energy Conservation

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is conserved in any process. This means that the total amount of energy within a closed system remains constant. Which is a measure of heat transfer during chemical reactions or physical changes, the first law tells us that the energy gained or lost by a system is equal to the heat added to or removed from it.
In simpler terms, if you place a hot cup of coffee on the table and leave it, it will eventually cool down because it transfers heat from the coffee to its surroundings. This temperature change corresponds to a change in enthalpy. The first law allows us to quantify this energy transfer and understand how it affects different systems.

The Second Law: Entropy and Energy Dispersal

The second law of thermodynamics introduces another important concept: entropy.

Entropy measures the dispersal of energy or system disorder, offering insight into the extent of energy spread within a given system.

For instance, when we light a matchstick, we observe combustion, wherein the potential chemical energy stored within the matchstick converts into thermal (heat) and radiant (light) energy.

During this process, both enthalpy and entropy are involved. Enthalpy accounts for the heat released during combustion while entropy measures how much this released heat spreads out into its surroundings. This brings us to an interesting point about entropy – it tends to increase over time in isolated systems.

In other words, things naturally tend towards becoming more disordered or chaotic unless external factors intervene.

People often refer to this as the “arrow of time,” and it helps us understand why we observe certain behaviors in nature, such as the flow of heat from hot objects to cold objects.

The Laws in Action

Together, the laws of thermodynamics govern how energy flows and transforms within a closed system. They provide a framework for understanding various processes and changes that occur in our everyday lives.

For example: In engines, like car engines or power plants, the laws of thermodynamics enable us to understand the conversion of heat into useful work.

In refrigerators, these laws elucidate the removal of heat from a cold space and its transfer to a warmer environment.

In chemical reactions, enthalpy changes inform us about whether a reaction releases heat (exothermic) or absorbs heat (endothermic).


Can enthalpy change be negative?

Yes, absolutely! Enthalpy change can be negative when energy is released from a system. For example, when a chemical reaction gives off heat or when water vapor condenses into liquid water, the enthalpy change will be negative.

How does entropy affect spontaneity?

Entropy plays a pivotal role in determining whether a process or reaction is spontaneous. Generally, as the entropy of a system increases, so does its tendency towards spontaneity. This means that processes that increase disorder or randomness (higher entropy) are more likely to occur spontaneously.

Is there any practical application of enthalpy and entropy?

Certainly! Enthalpy and entropy have numerous practical applications across various fields. They are essential in designing efficient heat engines, understanding phase transitions such as boiling and freezing, predicting chemical reactions’ feasibility, and even analyzing biological systems like protein folding.

Can you provide an analogy to explain the difference between enthalpy and entropy?

Sure thing! Think of a campfire. We can liken enthalpy to the total amount of heat produced by the fire, representing the overall “heat content.” On the other hand, entropy indicates how spread out or disordered the fire’s molecules are, reflecting the degree of chaos within it.

How do enthalpy and entropy relate to each other?

Enthalpy and entropy are intimately connected through the concept of Gibbs free energy. Gibbs free energy combines both enthalpy and entropy to determine whether a process is spontaneous or non-spontaneous. It considers the balance between the heat absorbed or released (enthalpy) and the disorder or randomness (entropy) of the system.

Can you explain how enthalpy and entropy influence chemical reactions?

Certainly! Enthalpy influences reactions by determining whether they release or absorb heat, which affects their overall energy change. Entropy, on the other hand, influences reactions by considering how much disorder increases or decreases during the process. The interplay between enthalpy and entropy ultimately determines whether a reaction is favorable or not.

What happens to enthalpy and entropy during phase transitions?

During phase transitions like melting, boiling, or freezing, both enthalpy and entropy play crucial roles. Heat is either absorbed or released during these processes, causing enthalpy changes. Meanwhile, entropy changes as the molecules transition from one phase to another—increasing in gases and decreasing in solids.

Shazzy Sheraz

I'm a passionate and experienced SEO and Technical Content Writer, dedicated to delivering high-impact content that ranks well and engages readers.