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article imagePhysicists seeking to create cooler computing

By Tim Sandle     Jun 23, 2018 in Science
Santa Fe - Computers require a huge energy demand, not only from the power required to run the devices, but also in terms of keeping them cool. Physicists have come up with a theory, based on the thermodynamics of computation, which could help to cool down devices.
Taking advantage of developments in nonequilibrium statistical physics, scientists from the Santa Fe Institute, have managed to advance the 'thermodynamics of computation.' Success in this field paves the way for a new understanding as to how we can engineer computers and the energy that powers them.
Currently thermodynamic restrictions on computer systems presents a major challenge to the design of current and future computers. As it stands, around 5 percent of all U.S. energy consumption is used to run computers alone. Thermodynamics is the branch of physics concerned with heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work.
For the research into ways to address the issues of thermodynamics, the U.S. scientists deployed the approach of statistical thermodynamics, a research strand that is concerned with making statistical predictions in relation to the collective motion of particles, as discerned from their microscopic behavior in relation to macroscopic phenomena (like temperature and pressure).
The research is at an early stage and the researchers are keen to collaborate with other scientists. To this end they have launched an online wiki ("Thermodynamics of Computation Wiki") to enable research sharing to happen for new partnerships to be forged.
According to lead researcher Joshua Grochow: "Part of what we are trying to package up the lessons from nonequilibrium statisticalover the past 20 years in a way that makes clear what the new computational questions are." he hopes this will "entice computer scientists to work on a new generation of questions." An example is developing cooler and more powerful machines.
The research has been published in the journal ACM SIGACT News, with the research described as "Beyond Number of Bit Erasures."
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