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Biological thermodynamics

Biological thermodynamics is a phrase that is sometimes used to refer to bioenergetics, the study of energy transformation in the biological sciences. Biological thermodynamics may be defined as the quantitative study of the energy transductions that occur in and between living organisms, structures, and cells and of the nature and function of the chemical processes underlying these transductions. Biological thermodynamics may address the question of whether the benefit associated with any particular phenotypic trait is worth the energy investment it requires.



German-British medical doctor and biochemist Hans Krebs' 1957 book Energy Transformations in Living Matter (written with Hans Kornberg)[1] was the first major publication on the thermodynamics of biochemical reactions. In addition, the appendix contained the first-ever published thermodynamic tables, written by K. Burton, to contain equilibrium constants and Gibbs free energy of formations for chemical species, able to calculate biochemical reactions that had not yet occurred.[2]

Non-equilibrium thermodynamics has been applied for explaining how biological organisms can develop from disorder. Ilya Prigogine developed methods for the thermodynamic treatment of such systems, he called these systems dissipative systems, because they are formed and maintained by the dissipative processes which take place because of the exchange of energy between the system and its environment and because they disappear if that exchange ceases. They may be said to live in symbiosis with their environment. Energy transformations in biology are primarily dependent on photosynthesis. The total energy captured by photosynthesis in green plants from the solar radiation is about 2 x 1023 joules of energy per year.[3] Annual energy captured by photosynthesis in green plants is about 4% of the total sunlight energy which reaches Earth. The energy transformations in biological communities surrounding hydrothermal vents are exceptions. They oxidize sulfur, obtaining their energy via chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis.

The focus of thermodynamics in biology

The field of biological thermodynamics is focussed on principles of chemical thermodynamics in biology and biochemistry. Principles covered include the first law of thermodynamics, the second law of thermodynamics, Gibbs free energy, statistical thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and on hypotheses of the origin of life. Presently, biological thermodynamics concerns itself with the study of internal biochemical dynamics as: ATP hydrolysis, protein stability, DNA binding, membrane diffusion, enzyme kinetics,[4] and other such essential energy controlled pathways. Thermodynamically, the amount of energy capable of doing work during a chemical reaction is measured quantitatively by the change in the Gibbs free energy. The physical biologist Alfred Lotka attempted to unify the change in the Gibbs free energy with evolutionary theory.

See also

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  1. ^ Alberty R (2004). "A short history of the thermodynamics of enzyme-catalyzed reactions". J Biol Chem 279 (27): 27831-6. PMID 15073189.
  2. ^ Hans Krebs - 1935
  3. ^,
  4. ^ Reactions and Enzymes Chapter 10 of On-Line Biology Book at Estrella Mountain Community College.

Further reading

  • Haynie, D. (2001). Biological Thermodynamics (textbook). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lehninger, A., Nelson, D., & Cox, M. (1993). Principles of Biochemistry, 2nd Ed (textbook). New York: Worth Publishers.
  • Alberty, Robert, A. (2006). Biochemical Thermodynamics: Applications of Mathematica (Methods of Biochemical Analysis), Wiley-Interscience.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Biological_thermodynamics". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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