Free energy is of central importance for understanding the properties of physical systems at finite temperatures. While in the zero temperature limit the system should evolve to a state of minimum energy (Section 2.3), this is not necessarily the case at a finite temperature. When an open system exchanges energy with the outside world (a thermostat) and maintains a constant temperature, its evolution proceeds towards minimizing its free energy. For example, a crystal turns into a liquid when the temperature exceeds its melting temperature precisely because the free energy of the liquid state becomes lower than that of the crystalline state. In the context of dislocation simulations, free energy is all important when one has to decide which of the possible core configurations the dislocation is likely to adopt at a given temperature.
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