Irreversibility and heat generation in the computing process. (English) Zbl 1160.68305

Summary: It is argued that computing machines inevitably involve devices which perform logical functions that do not have a single-valued inverse. This logical irreversibility is associated with physical irreversibility and requires a minimal heat generation, per machine cycle, typically of the order of \(kT\) for each irreversible function. This dissipation serves the purpose of standardizing signals and making them independent of their exact logical history. Two simple, but representative, models of bistable devices are subjected to a more detailed analysis of switching kinetics to yield the relationship between speed and energy dissipation, and to estimate the effects of errors induced by thermal fluctuations.


68M01 General theory of computer systems
68Q01 General topics in the theory of computing
80A20 Heat and mass transfer, heat flow (MSC2010)
Full Text: DOI