This article focuses on passive systems that are used in energy and thermal-fluid applications. These passive systems do not have moving parts and are compact, reliable, and cost-effective. Fluid motion in these passive devices could be driven by capillary force, gravity, osmotic pressure, and/or concentration gradient. The fundamental mechanisms and limitations of transport phenomena for passive systems are highlighted, followed by their applications in heat pipes, fuel cells, thermal energy storage, and desalination systems. The capabilities of the passive systems are limited based on the balance between the driving force and transport resistance. Based on the fundamental understanding of fluid flow and phase change in passive systems, this study proposes associated transport phenomena and quantitative criteria to determine the maximum heat transfer rate, the transport distance, and minimum pore size of wick structures (when relevant) in these passive devices. This review concludes with discussions of challenges and future opportunities of passive systems.