Dirty Dishes Cleaning Themselves

Aug 25, 2017

Soak a dirty dish for a day, and it almost cleans itself with no work. The brownian motion of the water, or the fast particle collisions, remove the dirt from the dish.

Is this a violation of the Second Law since no work is being done by a machine that takes up energy (or a human powered by food), and yet work actually is done for free by the particles, at virtually no cost?

The second law basically says that no work can be done for free, without some cost of energy. Washing a dish by letting it soak and doing nothing else, is almost a violation of the second law. You are letting the particles do the work for you, and not wasting energy cleaning them...

However, and a big however, the only cost involved is once the water disolves (by particle collisions) the dirt or stuck on food, the water is no longer usable again. It must be thrown down the sink... or, you could reuse it until it is completely saturated and cannot do any more work.

Still, it is a very interesting thought experiment (and actual real world experiment) to think about. Why is it that, when no work is done by a human, plain water will partially or almost fully clean a dish if you leave it sitting doing nothing for a day? The answer is particle collisions, which is free energy available in the water at room temperature, with no energy added from anywhere else.

Is the "dirty dish soaking for a day" analogy (or literal, rather) the perfect thought experiment and real world experiment to understand how the second law could possibly be violated? Indeed, it is the perfect experiment to think about, because many second law violating devices in nano technology are constructed with the idea that particle energy (moving particles) can somehow be used to do free work. That is exactly what soaking a dish is: free work done by particles themelves, at room temperature. The water does not even need to be heated to perform work on the dirty dish.

I have always been fascinated by this for a long time, but have not put it into words as everyone takes soaking for dishes for granted and it is common sense. However, little did we know that this simple almost daily activity that everyone does in their sink after eating, could be one of the major keys to understanding possible second law violations in nano technology: perform work by allowing the particles and their motions to do the work for you, so as long as some structure is in place to take this particle motion away and turn it into something useful (reusable energy), or in this case, cleaning an obnoxiously dirty dish that no one wants to clean - including myself - which, at the time of writing, is the reason I am writing this article, because a couple of dirty dishes have found their way into my sink.

Particle motion can perform work, but can it do it over and over again multiple times, and therefore break the second law continually without other costs involved? This is the key to almost all second law violating devices in nano technology.

Note: I will possibly continue this article later and expand more on this.

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