US DOE Researchers Announce Discovery of ‘Loophole’ in Second Law of Thermodynamics

Thanks to georgehants for posting about an announcement at the US Department of Energy’s  Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois that researchers have proposed a way to find a ‘loophole’ in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law states that systems naturally degenerate from order to disorder, i.e. increase in entropy, and that energy is wasted as it is transformed.

The researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, in quantum modeling, found instances where some molecules decrease in entropy, which is contravenes the Second Law.

The following is from the ANL website here:

The Second Law is underpinned by what is called the H-theorem, which says that if you open a door between two rooms, one hot and one cold, they will eventually settle into lukewarm equilibrium; the hot room will never end up hotter.

But even in the twentieth century, as our knowledge of quantum mechanics advanced, we didn’t fully understand the fundamental physical origins of the H-theorem.

Recent advancements in a field called quantum information theory offered a mathematical construction in which entropy increases.

“What we did was formulate how these beautiful abstract mathematical theories could be connected to our crude reality,” said Valerii Vinokur, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and corresponding author on the study.

The scientists took quantum information theory, which is based on abstract mathematical systems, and applied it to condensed matter physics, a well-explored field with many known laws and experiments.

So far this research has been only carried out on a theoretical level; the researchers next plan to work with experimentalists to build a proof-of-concept demonstration. If it is successful there may be practical applications. Valerii Vinokur states “This provides us a platform for the practical realization of a quantum Maxwell’s demon, which could make possible a local quantum perpetual motion machine.”