Chilling Thoughts

What is Exergy, and How Did It End up in Our Name?

Turner Anderson–Thursday, February 28, 2019


For those among us who weren’t fortunate enough to take a thermodynamics course in high school or university, the first thought when seeing our company name is probably something about typos or apocryphal words. However, exergy is a well-defined concept in thermodynamics, and understanding it is the first step to understanding why our CTO and co-founder, Anthony Diamond, decided on the name Axiom Exergy.


Exergy takes its basis from the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the total disorder of an isolated system will tend to increase over time. This measure of order or common alignment in the energy of a system is represented by exergy, and, therefore, exergy is the maximum amount of useful work that a system can do as it comes into equilibrium with its surroundings. Exergy is lost in a transformation process when the activity is not completed with care and efficiency, and it is different from energy in that exergy takes into account the quality of energy, rather than just the quantity.


To understand this distinction between quality and quantity of energy, consider the fact that the water in the world’s oceans has many times more energy than we humans could ever hope to consume. However, because the temperature of this water is so low relative to its surroundings, the energy contained therein is very difficult to harness and convert into useful work. On the other hand, if the same amount of energy were available in a high pressure or high temperature stream, it would be much more easily converted into work. This stream would therefore have higher exergy than the world’s oceans, even though it has the same amount of energy.


While exergy is perhaps the more unusual word of the two, its simple definition of "useful work" was only half of the inspiration behind the name Axiom Exergy. Axiom, arguably the more important word and the one we use as shorthand to refer to ourselves, comes from the Greek root Axios, which can be translated as "worthy of." The meanings of these two words, axiom and exergy, combine to form the phrase "worthy work," which is what we at Axiom strive to perform every day. To that end, it is our view that one of the greatest objectives worthy of our organized and collective efforts at this critical juncture in human history is to accelerate the world’s transition to a clean energy future, which we are helping to do by making thermal systems flexible, intelligent, and resilient.


Turner is an Application Engineer at Axiom Exergy.