A brief Commented History of Exergy From the Beginnings to 2004

Enrico Sciubba, Göran Wall
4.715 1.859


This paper presents a brief critical and analytical account of the development of the concept of exergy and of its applications. It is based on a careful and extended (in time) consultation of a very large body of published references taken from archival journals, textbooks and other monographic works, conference proceedings, technical reports and lecture series. We have tried to identify the common thread that runs through all of the references, to put different issues into perspective, to clarify dubious points, to suggest logical and scientific connections and priorities. It was impossible to eliminate our respective biases that still affect the “style” of the present paper: luckily, some of our individual biases “cancelled out” at the time of writing, and some were corrected by our Reviewers (to whom we owe sincere thanks for the numerous and very relevant corrections and suggestions).

The article is organized chronologically and epistemologically: it turns out that the two criteria allow for a quite clear systematization of the subject matter, because the development of the exergy concept was rather “linear”.

This work is addressed to our Colleagues who are involved in theoretical research, industrial development, and societal applications of exergy concepts: if they extract from this article the idea of an extraordinary epistemological uniformity in the development of the concept of exergy, our goal will be achieved. The other addressees of this paper are Graduate Students taking their first steps in this field: in their case, we hope that consultation of our paper will prompt them to adopt and maintain throughout their career a scholarly valid method of research, which implies studying and respecting our scientific roots (the sources) but venturing freely and creatively into unknown territory.

In the Conclusions we try to forecast future developments: this is the only part of the paper that is an intentional expression of our own views: the previous historical-scientific exposition is instead based on verifiable facts and accepted opinions.


exergy, maximum work, thermo-economics, cumulative exergy cost, history of exergy

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