Thermodynamic Computing with Information Engines


Co-Guest Editors:

    Fabio Anza (U Washington)

    Korana Burke (UC Davis).

    James P. Crutchfield (UC Davis), and

    Sebastian Deffner (UMBC)

Synopsis: Synthetic nanoscale machines, like their macromolecular biological counterparts, perform tasks that involve the simultaneous manipulation of energy, information, and matter. In this they are information engines—systems with two inextricably intertwined characters. The first aspect, call it “physical”, is the one in which the system—seen embedded in a material substrate—is driven by, manipulates, stores, and dissipates energy. The second aspect, call it “informational”, is the one in which the system—seen in terms of its spatial and temporal organization—generates, stores, loses, and transforms information. Information engines operate by synergistically balancing both aspects to support a given functionality, such as extracting work from a heat reservoir or using thermodynamic resources to compute.

Recent years witnessed remarkable progress in the theoretical understanding and experimental exploration of how physical systems compute, process, and transfer information. In short, we are on the verge of a new paradigm of thermodynamic computing. It is now time to take stock and record this progress in a journal special issue. The prospects were recently reviewed in the Computing Community Consortium’s report on Thermodynamic Computing from the workshop held 3-5 January 2019.

The nascent topic of information engines for thermodynamic computing has blossomed into an exciting, cutting-edge research frontier that promises both fundamental and practical breakthroughs. The Special Issue will serve as an important rallying point for future research on thermodynamic computing.

The depth and importance of this area of research and the rapid recent progress motivate the journal special issue on Thermodynamic Computing with Information Engines. Its aim is to facilitate the exchange ideas from research in Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics, Classical and Quantum Information, Statistical Mechanics, Biophysics, and Nonlinear Dynamics. Fundamental questions arise at the boundaries between these disciplines that are relevant to a wide variety of related fields including Nanoscale Statistical Mechanics, Finite-Time Thermodynamics, Quantum Thermodynamics, Quantum Computation, Quantum Communication, Quantum Optimal Control Theory, and Biological Physics.

The Special Issue is open for submission: TBA.


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