In chemistry, the standard state of a material (pure substance, mixture or solution) is a reference point used to calculate its properties under different conditions. A superscript circle is used to designate a thermodynamic quantity in the standard state, such as change in enthalpy (ΔH°), change in entropy (ΔS°), or change in Gibbs free energy (ΔG°). (See discussion about typesetting below.)
In principle, the choice of standard state is arbitrary, although the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) recommends a conventional set of standard states for general use. IUPAC recommends using a standard pressure p⦵ = 105 Pa. Strictly speaking, temperature is not part of the definition of a standard state. For example, as discussed below, the standard state of a gas is conventionally chosen to be unit pressure (usually in bar) ideal gas, regardless of the temperature. However, most tables of thermodynamic quantities are compiled at specific temperatures, most commonly 298.15 K (25.00 °C; 77.00 °F) or, somewhat less commonly, 273.15 K (0.00 °C; 32.00 °F).
The standard state should not be confused with standard temperature and pressure (STP) for gases, nor with the standard solutions used in analytical chemistry. STP is commonly used for calculations involving gases that approximate an ideal gas, whereas standard state conditions are used for thermodynamic calculations.
For a given material or substance, the standard state is the reference state for the material's thermodynamic state properties such as enthalpy, entropy, Gibbs free energy, and for many other material standards. The standard enthalpy change of formation for an element in its standard state is zero, and this convention allows a wide range of other thermodynamic quantities to be calculated and tabulated. The standard state of a substance does not have to exist in nature: for example, it is possible to calculate values for steam at 298.15 K and 105 Pa, although steam does not exist (as a gas) under these conditions. The advantage of this practice is that tables of thermodynamic properties prepared in this way are self-consistent.