2016 Forum – From Yottabytes to Zeptojoules: Can Digital Demand Outstrip Physical Limits?

09 March, 2016 | Presentation

Dr. Jon Summers, University of Leeds

In 1961 the German born physicist, Rolf Landauer, whilst working for IBM wrote a paper on “Irreversibility and Heat Generation in the Computing Process." Landauer’s work encompassed some theories behind the physical limit of processing digital information in terms of the thermodynamics. The link between energy and information actually started earlier in 1948 with the work of Claude Shannon. Bringing the historical perspective together with today's unprecedented growth in the consumption of data by both humans and machines, the question arises – Is there really a limit? By combining growth statistics in data center and telecommunication power consumption, physical laws, and a number of other theories this presentation will predict a potential point of convergence of around 2036. Hypothetically – how much electrical energy will be consumed, how much thermal energy will be generated, and how much data might be processed, stored, and transmitted?