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Modern Thermodynamics for Chemists and Biochemists$
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Dennis Sherwood and Paul Dalby

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198782957

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198782957.001.0001

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Thermodynamics today – and tomorrow

Thermodynamics today – and tomorrow

(p.780) 26 Thermodynamics today – and tomorrow
Modern Thermodynamics for Chemists and Biochemists

Dennis Sherwood

Paul Dalby

Oxford University Press

This last chapter explores the frontiers of how thermodynamics is currently being applied to biology, moving from the scale of the molecule to the scale of the cell. The key theme is ‘self-assembly’ – the process by which macromolecules spontaneously assemble into larger structures such as cell membranes, cell organelles, cells, and ultimately organisms. The starting point is the simplest process of self-assembly, the formation of a liquid from the condensation of a gas, which draws on some results from Chapter 15, and develops the concept of nucleation, this leads to a discussion of protein aggregation, and how virus particles are formed. The chapter, and the book, ends with a key challenge for the future: how can we deliberately design self-assembling systems that can perform valuable functions?

Keywords:   protein aggregation, large complexes, amyloids, self-assembly, non-ideal gas, van der Waals equation, polymerisation, nucleation, elongation, critical size, autocatalysis, Finke-Watzky model, virus assembly, capsid, self-assembling systems, contact energy

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