Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Portables Power Hardware Science Technology

Researchers Re-Examine Second Law of Thermodynamics 125

Many readers have written to tell us that researchers are examining the possibility of using Brownian ratchets to help combat the problem of heat dissipation in miniaturized electronics. "Currently, devices are engineered to operate near thermal equilibrium, in accordance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that heat tends to transfer from a hotter unit to a cooler one. However, using the concept of Brownian ratchets, which are systems that convert non-equilibrium energy to do useful work, the researchers hope to allow computers to operate at low power levels, and harness power dissipated by other functions. 'The main quest we have is to see if by departing from near-equilibrium operation, we can perform computation more efficiently,' Ghosh told iTnews. 'We aren't breaking the Second Law — that's not what we are claiming,' he said. 'We are simply re-examining its implications, as much of the established understanding of power dissipation is based on near-equilibrium operation.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Researchers Re-Examine Second Law of Thermodynamics

Comments Filter:
  • by hairykrishna ( 740240 ) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @12:59PM (#25234919)
    Can anyone explain what they're doing/hope to do? The only time I've encountered the phrase 'Brownian ratchet' was Feynmans example of a Maxwells demon which turns out not to work.
  • by drgould ( 24404 ) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @02:00PM (#25235721)

    I remember seeing a Zippy comic strip taped to a door at the electronic arts building of my alma mater in 1990. It had him walking along, laughing, saying, "Satellite Uplink" repeatedly, similar to your post.

    To what does this refer? I've been pondering it for 18 years.

    As you've observed, a recurring theme in the Zippy comic strip is for Zippy to simply repeat a phrase over and over again.

    Zippy is easier to understand once you stop expecting it to make sense.

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @02:09PM (#25235853) Homepage

    Then i don't see why they re-examine the 2nd law.

    As far as I can tell, they're not; this is YAIMSH (Yet Another Ignorant, Misleading Slashdot Headline)—something that occurs so often it really needs an acronym. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 02, 2008 @02:21PM (#25236033)

    Wouldn't YAMISH be a better acronym?

  • by Temujin_12 ( 832986 ) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @02:36PM (#25236247)

    As far as I understand it, they're basically saying:

    Gee, why don't we, instead of work on cooling the system by exhausting the heat (thing CPU fan), try to convert the heat back into reusable energy.

    For those who enjoy car analogies that can easily be refuted on a pedantic level, its like many hybrid cars makers who said:

    Gee, why don't we, instead of wasting the kenetic energy when the vehicle brakes, try to convert it back into reusable energy.

    Basically they're just challenging the old paradigm in electronics that you need to get the heat out of the system and instead suggest thinking of it as a possible energy source.

  • by Bob-taro ( 996889 ) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @02:50PM (#25236463)

    Let's use the excess heat in some parts of the chip and use that as a secondary power source.

    So ... maybe you could use the heat from your CPU to spin the HDD or something? That sounds possible and I guess it would make the system as a whole more efficient. The biggest problem is probably going to be cooling the CPU. It would seem to me that any sort of heat engine driven by heat from the cpu is going to impede the cooling of said CPU. And for that heat engine to be very efficient at all it's going to have to have a high temperature gradient. If the gradient is 75C to 22C it can only be 15% efficient (I think. It's been a while since I studied thermo.).

  • by ardle ( 523599 ) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @03:15PM (#25236891)
    Maybe they can use that heat energy to power the fans?

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury