Born: 25 January 1917, Moscow, Russia
Died: 28 May 2003, Brussels, Belgium
Affiliation at the time of the award: Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA
Prize motivation: "for his contributions to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures"
Field: chemical thermodynamics, physical chemistry
Prize share: 1/1
Thermodynamics is about heat and its transformation into other forms of energy - basically involving statistical descriptions of atomic and molecular movements. Irreversible thermodynamic processes go in only one direction, usually toward more disorder. However, during the 1960s Ilya Prigogine developed a theory about dissipative structures, which maintains that long before a state of equilibrium is reached in irreversible processes, orderly and stable systems can arise from more disordered systems. The result has been applied in a great many areas.