Biological organisms are open thermodynamic systems with
metabolism (food and breathing). Most processes are not in equilibrium.
Thermodynamic forces and fluxes drive reaction under consumption of
energy and dissipation of entropy. Such processes are irreversible. The
understanding of non-equilibrium processes is important to analyze
molecular reactions, protein function and metabolism in biology. This
course introduces into the thermodynamics of irreversible processes and
into the application of these concepts to elementary biological
reactions (e.g. channel activities). Under certain conditions stable
fluxes (stationary states) develop, or dissipative stuctures can form.
Criteria for defining such states are formulated. Ultimately one
arrives at the formation of chemical oszillations and biological
clocks. In reproducing organisms, such oszillations can lead to
reproductive cycles (hypercycles) that compete with other organisms.
Fitness is a consequence of reproductive speed, error and death rate.
Important key topics of this course are 'information', 'self
reproduction', 'self organisation' and 'evolution'.
For physicists, chemists, biochemists and related subject after the
There will be handouts that are sufficient for understanding. The
following is recommended reading:
"Modern Thermodynamics: From Heat Engines to Dissipative Structures
(Paperback) by D. Kondepudi and I. Prigogine"
- Selected publications by Onsager, Einstein and Eigen.