Reversing the Landauer's erasure: Single-electron Maxwell's demon operating at the limit of thermodynamic efficiency

Dmitri V. Averin*, Jukka P. Pekola

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


According to Landauer's principle, erasure of information is the only part of a computation process that unavoidably involves energy dissipation. If done reversibly, such an erasure generates the minimal heat of kBT per erased bit of information. The goal of this work is to discuss the actual reversal of the optimal erasure which can serve as the basis for the Maxwell's demon operating with ultimate thermodynamic efficiency as dictated by the second law of thermodynamics. The demon extracts kBT of heat from an equilibrium reservoir at temperature T per one bit of information obtained about the measured system used by the demon. We have analyzed this Maxwell's demon in the situation when it uses a general quantum system with a discrete spectrum of energy levels as its working body. In the case of the effectively two-level system, which has been realized experimentally based on tunneling of individual electron in a single-electron box, we also studied and minimized corrections to the ideal reversible operation of the demon. These corrections include, in particular, the non-adiabatic terms which are described by a version of the classical fluctuation–dissipation theorem. The overall reversibility of the Maxwell's demon requires, beside the reversibility of the intrinsic working body dynamics, the reversibility of the measurement, and feedback processes. The single-electron demon can, in principle, be made fully reversible by developing a thermodynamically reversible single-electron charge detector for measurements of the individual charge states of the single-electron box.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1600677
Pages (from-to)1-10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • fluctuation-dissipation relations
  • Maxwell's demon
  • nanostructure thermodynamics
  • single-charge tunneling


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