Biothermodynamics: Principles and Applications

By Mustafa Ozilgen and Esra Sorgüven, Taylor & Francis, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-4665-8609-3, xi+ 399 pages + CD, $128

This reviewer has taught undergraduate thermodynamics to mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering students. Some of the courses were standard steam-table based, some were based on statistical theories, all involved the useful conversion of energy to practical benefit and the limits imposed thereby by the first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics. This text, aimed primarily at students who have suffered through a one- or two-semester introduction to thermodynamics, offers an interesting insight into the application of these principles to inquiries involving biological and agricultural systems. Indeed, as the preface indicates, the text has been used for (primarily) mixed graduate students from mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, food engineering, medicine, genetics, and biotechnology.

The text is comprised of five chapters and includes a CD that contains several MATLAB examples that are discussed in the text.

Chapters 1–3 are primarily an overview of basic thermodynamics, but with some biological examples included to assist the reader into the competency needed for the last two chapters. Each of these chapters contain, at the end, “questions for discussion (also known as ‘homework’).” MATLAB code is included as necessary in each chapter to demonstrate the computer code (as necessary) to determine parameters discussed. Chapter 1, titled “Energy, Entropy, and Thermodynamics,” covers the laws of thermodynamics and reminds the reader of the term exergy, the maximum amount of energy available from a system. The reader is reminded (hopefully) of the energy involved in the utilization of glucose, some 18 examples of systems, such as the transduction of sound in the ear and a discussion of heart failure, serve to illustrate the uses of these laws in many systems. Chapter 2 is titled “Estimation of Thermodynamic Properties,” some 27 examples are used to elucidate the perfect gas law, corrections thereto, and calculations involving properties of mixtures, such as carbon dioxide in a drink, nitrogen gas in blood, and so on. Chapter 3 is titled “Energy Conversion Systems.” Here, we have a quick review of the Rankine Cycle, heat pumps, efficiency, and the Carnot Cycle and its efficiency. Also, we “only” have eight examples to illustrate the definitions, one of which is “estimation of the devastating power of a hurricane” (!!), another considers the work production of muscles.

With the first three chapters establishing an overview of thermodynamics and its application to both inorganic and organic systems, the stage is well set for the final two chapters, which are meant to be supplementary material for related projects based upon this text. Each chapter is well written and liberally filled with examples. Chapter 4 is titled “Thermodynamic Aspects of Biological Processes.” Sixteen examples are discussed in this chapter, MATLAB code, as necessary, is included in the discussions that require it. Select examples in the chapter that include: 1) the work necessary to create (and recycle) a (European Garden) spider web, 2) honeybee nectar collection efficiency, 3) squid propulsion work, 4) firefly efficiency, 5) photosynthesis efficiency, and 6) aging models. Chapter 5, titled “Thermodynamic Assessment of the Industrial Bioprocesses” concludes the text. Following a brief, but relevant reference to the Kyoto Protocol, some 20 relevant industrial examples are presented. Processes investigated include: 1) energy efficiencies of recycling paper versus de novo production from timber, 2) energy costs comparison, wine versus brandy, 3) orange juice production/transportation costs, 4) milk production costs, 5) comparison of various agricultural techniques, 6) comparison costs: olives versus sunflowers versus soybeans, and 7) various yogurt packaging techniques and costs.

Overall, this reviewer highly recommends this text for situations (courses, projects, and research) involving elucidation of the efficiencies of biological processes. It is a good contribution to the literature.