Research Article

Minimal Energy Requirements in Communication

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Science  28 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5270, pp. 1914-1918
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5270.1914


The literature describing the energy needs for a communications channel has been dominated by analyses of linear electromagnetic transmission, often without awareness that this is a special case. This case leads to the conclusion that an amount of energy equal to kTln 2, where kT is the thermal noise per unit bandwidth, is needed to transmit a bit, and more if quantized channels are used with photon energies hν > kT. Alternative communication methods are proposed to show that there is no unavoidable minimal energy requirement per transmitted bit. These methods are invoked as part of an analysis of ultimate limits and not as practical procedures.