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The minimal work cost of information processing

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  • Philippe Faist, Institute for Theoretical Physics, ETH, Switzerland
  • Fréderic Dupont-Dupuis
  • Jonathan Oppenheim, Department for Physics and Astronomy, University College of London, United Kingdom
  • Renato Renner, Institute for Theoretical Physics, ETH, Switzerland

Irreversible information processing cannot be carried out without some inevitable thermodynamical work cost. This fundamental restriction, known as Landauer's principle, is increasingly relevant today, as the energy dissipation of computing devices impedes the development of their performance. Here we determine the minimal work required to carry out any logical process, for instance a computation. It is given by the entropy of the discarded information conditional to the output of the computation. Our formula takes precisely into account the statistically fluctuating work requirement of the logical process. It enables the explicit calculation of practical scenarios, such as computational circuits or quantum measurements. On the conceptual level, our result gives a precise and operational connection between thermodynamic and information entropy, and explains the emergence of the entropy state function in macroscopic thermodynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7669
JournalNature Communications
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2015

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