Gibbs' phase rule was proposed by Josiah Willard Gibbs in his landmark paper titled On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, published from 1875 to 1878. The rule applies to non-reactive multi-component heterogeneous systems in thermodynamic equilibrium and is given by the equality
where F is the number of degrees of freedom, C is the number of components and P is the number of phases in thermodynamic equilibrium with each other.
The number of degrees of freedom is the number of independent intensive variables, i.e. the largest number of thermodynamic parameters such as temperature or pressure that can be varied simultaneously and arbitrarily without affecting one another. An example of one-component system is a system involving one pure chemical, while two-component systems, such as mixtures of water and ethanol, have two chemically independent components, and so on. Typical phases are solids, liquids and gases.