An exactly solvable model of Maxwell’s demon

Dibyendu Mandal

Physics Dept., University of Maryland
Monday, January 14, 2013 at 1:00pm
560 Evans Hall

The paradox of Maxwell’s demon has stimulated numerous thought experiments, leading to discussions about the thermodynamic implications of information processing. However, the field has lacked a tangible example or model of an autonomous, mechanical system that reproduces the actions of the demon. To address this issue, we introduce an explicit model of a device that can deliver work to lift a mass against gravity by rectifying thermal fluctuations, while writing information to a memory register. We solve for the steady-state behavior of the model and construct its nonequilibrium phase diagram. In addition to the engine-like action described above, we identify a Landauer eraser region in the phase diagram where the model uses externally supplied work to remove information from the memory register. Our model offers a simple paradigm for investigating the thermodynamics of information processing by exposing a transparent mechanism of operation.