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"These are the days of miracle and wonder"

08.03.12

 

 

In 1961 Rolf Landauer linked information and thermodynamic entropy by showing that erasing or combining bits of memory must be accompanied by an increase in entropy. For the first time since then, a team of physicists have experimentally verified this principle.

According to Landauer’s principle, any logically irreversible transformation of information results in, at best, some small dissipation of heat. The specific amount depends on the operating temperature—per bit, it amounts to around 3×10-21 joules at room temperature. This energy is the Landauer limit, and controls the maximum energy efficiency of computers (it's similar to the Carnot efficiency in heat engines, both of which are related to entropy).

Measuring such a tiny amount of energy in a memory storage devices is, to say the least, challenging. But now, a team from École Normale Supérieure, the University of Kaiserslautern, and the University of Augsburg has managed to do so.

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