Review Article | Published:

Thermodynamics of information

Nature Physics volume 11, pages 131139 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

By its very nature, the second law of thermodynamics is probabilistic, in that its formulation requires a probabilistic description of the state of a system. This raises questions about the objectivity of the second law: does it depend, for example, on what we know about the system? For over a century, much effort has been devoted to incorporating information into thermodynamics and assessing the entropic and energetic costs of manipulating information. More recently, this historically theoretical pursuit has become relevant in practical situations where information is manipulated at small scales, such as in molecular and cell biology, artificial nano-devices or quantum computation. Here we give an introduction to a novel theoretical framework for the thermodynamics of information based on stochastic thermodynamics and fluctuation theorems, review some recent experimental results, and present an overview of the state of the art in the field.

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Acknowledgements

This work was partially supported by the COST Action MP1209 ‘Thermodynamics in the quantum regime’. J.M.R.P. is supported financially by the Spanish MINECO Grant ENFASIS (FIS2011-22644). J.M.H. is supported financially by the ARO MURI grant W911NF-11-1-0268. T.S. is supported financially by JSPS KAKENHI Grants No. 22340114 and No. 25800217.

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Affiliations

  1. Departamento de Física Atómica, Molecular y Nuclear and GISC, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040, Madrid, Spain

    • Juan M. R. Parrondo
  2. Department of Physics, University of Massachusetts at Boston, Boston, Massachusetts 02125, USA

    • Jordan M. Horowitz
  3. Department of Basic Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan

    • Takahiro Sagawa

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Juan M. R. Parrondo.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3230

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