Energy Cost of Information Transfer

Phys. Rev. Lett. 46, 623 – Published 9 March 1981
Jacob D. Bekenstein


From thermodynamic and causality considerations a general upper bound on the rate at which information can be transferred in terms of the message energy is inferred. This bound is consistent with Shannon's bounds for a band-limited channel. It prescribes the minimum energy cost for information transferred over a given time interval. As an application, a fundamental upper bound of 1015 operations/sec on the speed of an ideal digital computer is established.


  • Received 4 December 1980
  • Published in the issue dated 9 March 1981

© 1981 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

Jacob D. Bekenstein*

  • Princeton University Observatory and Joseph Henry Laboratories, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544

  • *On sabbatical leave from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheva, Israel.

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