A spontaneous process is the time-evolution of a system in which it releases free energy (usually as heat) and moves to a lower, more thermodynamically stable energy state. The sign convention of changes in free energy follows the general convention for thermodynamic measurements, in which a release of free energy from the system corresponds to a negative change in free energy, but a positive change for the surroundings.
A spontaneous process is capable of proceeding in a given direction, as written or described, without needing to be driven by an outside source of energy. The term is used to refer to macro processes in which entropy increases; such as a smell diffusing in a room, ice melting in lukewarm water, salt dissolving in water, and iron rusting.
The laws of thermodynamics govern the direction of a spontaneous process, ensuring that if a sufficiently large number of individual interactions (like atoms colliding) are involved then the direction will always be in the direction of increased entropy (since entropy increase is a statistical phenomenon).
Other articles related to "spontaneous process, process":
... When ΔG is negative, a process or chemical reaction proceeds spontaneously in the forward direction ... When ΔG is positive, the process proceeds spontaneously in reverse ... When ΔG is zero, the process is already in equilibrium, with no net change taking place over time ...
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