The basic problem of thermodynamics is the determination of the equilibrium state that eventually results after the removal of internal constraints in a closed composite system. – Callen (1960), p. 24.
Anyone studying an ore deposit winds up with a lot of data: field observations in the form of maps, sections and drill logs, chemical analyses, isotope analyses, fluid inclusion data, paragenetic relations, and so on. In addition, there is a vast amount experimental data in the literature on systems relevant to the deposit being studied, in the form of data on the chemical and physical properties of solids and fluids. The investigator then tries to come up with a model of ore formation that is consistent with all these data. Naturally, the model must also be consistent with accepted principles of chemistry and physics, and one of the subjects most useful, in fact essential, in assembling all these data into consistent models is thermodynamics.
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the concepts and terms of chemical thermodynamics that are useful in constructing models of hydrothermal systems. These will be used extensively in the chapters to follow. The concepts covered in this chapter normally occupy a complete book; the coverage is therefore necessarily brief. We can save considerable space, for example, by assuming that we are all familiar with the concepts of energy, work, heat, and temperature. These are in fact quite difficult subjects, but an intuitive understanding is usually sufficient for us.