Correlation between thermodynamic efficiency and ecological cyclicity for thermodynamic power cycles. Academic Article uri icon


  • A sustainable global community requires the successful integration of environment and engineering. In the public and private sectors, designing cyclical ("closed loop") resource networks increasingly appears as a strategy employed to improve resource efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. Patterning industrial networks on ecological ones has been shown to provide significant improvements at multiple levels. Here, we apply the biological metric cyclicity to 28 familiar thermodynamic power cycles of increasing complexity. These cycles, composed of turbines and the like, are scientifically very different from natural ecosystems. Despite this difference, the application results in a positive correlation between the maximum thermal efficiency and the cyclic structure of the cycles. The immediate impact of these findings results in a simple method for comparing cycles to one another, higher cyclicity values pointing to those cycles which have the potential for a higher maximum thermal efficiency. Such a strong correlation has the promise of impacting both natural ecology and engineering thermodynamics and provides a clear motivation to look for more fundamental scientific connections between natural and engineered systems.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Layton, A., Reap, J., Bras, B., & Weissburg, M.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

  • Layton, Astrid||Reap, John||Bras, Bert||Weissburg, Marc

editor list (cited editors)

  • Shah, V.

publication date

  • January 2012