German scientist who was one of the founders of modern physical chemistry.
His formulation of the third law of thermodynamics gained him the 1920
Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Simply stated, the law postulates that, at
a temperature above absolute zero, all matter tends toward random motion
and all energy tends to dissipate.
In 1906 Nernst announced his heat theorem, or third law of thermodynamics, in which he postulated that entropy has an absolute value such that crystalline materials have zero entropy at the temperature of absolute zero (273 C). In practical terms, this theorem implies the impossibility of attaining absolute zero, since as a system approaches absolute zero, the further extraction of energy from that system becomes more and more difficult. Modern science has attained temperatures only one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero, but absolute zero itself cannot be reached.
Nernst also conducted important research on the theory of galvanic
cells, the thermodynamics of chemical equilibrium, the properties of
vapours at high temperature and of solids at low temperature, and the
mechanism of photochemistry. Nernst was also interested in applied science.
He invented an improved electric light and an electronically amplified
piano. His influential textbook of theoretical chemistry was first published
in 1893. In later years he concerned himself chiefly with astrophysical
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