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Since some of the energy released in chemical reactions is lost as heat, then is the term "maximum work" technically a theoretical explanation for an ideal situation where all the energy released from a reaction is used for work and none is lost as heat?
I believe it is theoretical because no biological or chemical process is 100% energy efficient. Energy transfers are not perfect, so there will always be at least a small amount of it that becomes heat instead of 'useful' energy that can be used to do work.
Yes, maximum work is a theoretical expression. In actuality, you will likely have both a change in work and heat over the course of the reaction, as dU = q + w. Expressing the change in Gibbs free energy as maximum work is just a simpler way to describe it.
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