"Irreversible processes, such as resetting a logical register in a computer, result in heat dissipation. Landauer’s principle, linking information theory and thermodynamics, states that there is a minimum amount of heat dissipation, proportional to the reduction in the entropy of the logical register, imposed by the laws of thermodynamics. To possibly beat Landauer’s limit, we must first gain a better understanding of it. As quantum mechanics is our most fundamental theory of matter, such a deeper understanding of Landauer’s principle, which is based on classical physics, requires that it be reformulated in the quantum language. In this proposal we therefore aim to investigate how heat dissipation may be lowered beyond Landauer’s limit by utilising quantum mechanical phenomena, specifically that of quantum uncertainty. The objectives may be enumerated thusly: (i) Uncertainty in the form of environmental noise; (ii) Uncertainty by using non-orthogonal quantum states as the logical “0” and “1""; (iii) The interplay between uncertainty and quantum correlations between the logical register and some third-party system.
This project is very timely as it will fit into the emerging research area of quantum thermodynamics, while at the same time being original and innovative. It also has the potential for impact beyond fundamental science. According to the SMART2020 study, information and communications technologies (ICT) account for 2-5 % of global energy consumption; a number which will undoubtedly grow as ICT takes on a more prominent role in the global economy. According to recent studies, the minimum power dissipation per unit area of the fundamental building block of today’s computers – the CMOS FET transistor – is orders of magnitude larger than Landauer’s limit. The ICT industry is therefore endeavouring to devise systems which will narrow this gap, a task which will benefit greatly from the ability to operate beyond Landauer’s limit."
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