Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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On the Connections between Thermodynamics and General Relativity

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Version 1 2021-12-08, 08:17
posted on 2023-09-22, 01:44 authored by Santiago Silva, Jessica

In this thesis, the connections between thermodynamics and general relativity are explored. We introduce some of the history of the interaction between these two theories and take some time to individually study important concepts of both of them. Then, we move on to explore the concept of gravitationally induced temperature gradients in equilibrium states, first introduced by Richard Tolman. We explore these Tolman-like temperature gradients, understanding their physical origin and whether they can be generated by other forces or not. We then generalize this concept for fluids following generic four-velocities, which are not necessarily generated by Killing vectors, in general stationary space-times. Some examples are given.  Driven by the interest of understanding and possibly extending the concept of equilibrium for fluids following trajectories which are not generated by Killing vectors, we dedicate ourselves to a more fundamental question: can we still define thermal equilibrium for non-Killing flows? To answer this question we review two of the main theories of relativistic non-perfect fluids: Classical Irreversible Thermodynamics and Extended Irreversible Thermodynamics. We also take a tour through the interesting concept of Born-rigid motion, showing some explicit examples of non-Killing rigid flows for Bianchi Type I space-times. These results are important since they show that the Herglotz–Noether theorem cannot be extended for general curved space-times. We then connect the Born-rigid concept with the results obtained by the relativistic fluid’s equilibrium conditions and show that the exact thermodynamic equilibrium can only be achieved along a Killing flow. We do, however, introduce some interesting possibilities which are allowed for non-Killing flows.  We then launch into black hole thermodynamics, specifically studying the trans-Planckian problem for Hawking radiation. We construct a kinematical model consisting of matching two Vaidya spacetimes along a thin shell and show that, as long as the Hawking radiation is emitted only a few Planck lengths (in proper distance) away from the horizon, the trans-Plackian problem can be avoided.  We conclude with a brief discussion about what was presented and what can be done in the future.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Mathematics and Statistics


Visser, Matt