Photonic Maxwell’s demon

With inspiration from Maxwell’s classic thought experiment, it is possible to extract macroscopic work from microscopic measurements of photons.

Physical Review Letters 116, 50401 (2016)

M. Vidrighin, O. Dahlsten, M. Barbieri, M. Kim, V. Vedral, I. Walmsley

By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.
By analogy with Maxwell’s original thought experiment, the setup uses energy extracted from a thermal system.

We report an experimental realization of Maxwell’s demon in a photonic setup. We show that a measurement at the few-photons level followed by a feed-forward operation allows the extraction of work from intense thermal light into an electric circuit. The interpretation of the experiment stimulates the derivation of an equality relating work extraction to information acquired by measurement. We derive a bound using this relation and show that it is in agreement with the experimental results. Our work puts forward photonic systems as a platform for experiments related to information in thermodynamics.

More in Information thermodynamics

  • Scientific Reports

    Energy harvesting with AI

    Machine learning techniques enhance the efficiency of energy harvesters by implementing reversible energy-conserving operations.

  • Foundations of Physics

    A Hamiltonian recipe

    An explicit recipe for defining the Hamiltonian in general probabilistic theories, which have the potential to generalise quantum theory.

  • Proceedings of the Royal Society A

    Quantum thermodynamics

    Spectroscopy experiments show that energy shifts due to photon emission from individual molecules satisfy a fundamental quantum relation.

  • New Journal of Physics

    Worst-case work entropic equality

    A new equality which depends on the maximum entropy describes the worst-case amount of work done by finite-dimensional quantum systems.

  • New Journal of Physics

    A measure of majorization

    Single-shot information theory inspires a new formulation of statistical mechanics which measures the optimal guaranteed work of a system.