Irreversible process

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An irreversible process is a process for which it is impossible to return both the system and its surroundings to its original state by reversing the process. For instance, an internal combustion engine transforms hydrocarbon fuel such as ethanol into engine exhaust and energy; however, the engine exhaust and the energy transferred to the car cannot be transformed back into ethanol. Irreversible processes generally involve an increase in entropy.

Causes of irreversible processes include friction, unrestrained fluid expansion, heat transfer, and mixing.