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dissipative structuredissipative Struktur (ger.)

  • Spatial organization that exists outside the thermodynamic equilibrium and whose adjusted state corresponds to a decrease of entropy. (HWB 2011)

    It seems to us that the calculations presented in the previous sections prove indeed the existence of a symmetry-breaking instability for the Turing mechanism, in situations sufficiently far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The analogy with the Bénard problem is striking […]. Only here the loss of entropy at the transition is related to the maintainance of an organization in space. In both cases, we may speak of “dissipative structures.”

    Prigogine, I. & Nicolis, J. (1967). On symmetry-breaking instabilities in dissipative systems. J. chem. Phys. 46, 3542-3550: 3550.


    We have discussed the stability of purely dissipative systems involving chemical reactions but no hydrodynamic motion—for example, transport processes such as diffusion [...]. We placed special emphasis on the possibility of symmetry breaking instabilities leading to a spontaneous “self-organization” of the system from the point of view of both space order and function. Such low entropy situationsmay arise in systems which cannot transform part of the energy or matter exchanged with the outside world into macroscipic internal order. States which have such properties have been called “dissipative structures”.

    Prigogine, I., Lefever, R., Goldbeter, A. & Herschkowitz-Kaufman, M. (1969). Symmetry breaking instabilities in biological systems. Nature 223, 913-916: 913.


    macroscopic transitions in chemical kinetics and fluid dynamics occur, as a rule, under conditions that are close to a local equilibrium state. Yet these systems, which locally remain dissipative, and thus tend to damp thermal fluctuations, undergo large-scale transitions that change their macroscopic state (appearance of convection cells, spatial dissipative structures, and limit cycles in chemical autocatalytic systems, etc.).

    Nicolis, G. & Prigogine, I. (1971). Fluctuations in nonequilibrium systems. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 68, 2102-2107: 2102.