An Information Theory Approach to Nonlinear, Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics

Rogers, David; Beck, Thomas; Rempe, Susan
October 2011
Journal of Statistical Physics;Oct2011, Vol. 145 Issue 2, p385
Academic Journal
Using the problem of ion channel thermodynamics as an example, we illustrate the idea of building up complex thermodynamic models by successively adding physical information. We present a new formulation of information algebra that generalizes methods of both information theory and statistical mechanics. From this foundation we derive a theory for ion channel kinetics, identifying a nonequilibrium 'process' free energy functional in addition to the well-known integrated work functionals. The Gibbs-Maxwell relation for the free energy functional is a Green-Kubo relation, applicable arbitrarily far from equilibrium, that captures the effect of non-local and time-dependent behavior from transient thermal and mechanical driving forces. Comparing the physical significance of the Lagrange multipliers to the canonical ensemble suggests definitions of nonequilibrium ensembles at constant capacitance or inductance in addition to constant resistance. Our result is that statistical mechanical descriptions derived from a few primitive algebraic operations on information can be used to create experimentally-relevant and computable models. By construction, these models may use information from more detailed atomistic simulations. Two surprising consequences to be explored in further work are that (in)distinguishability factors are automatically predicted from the problem formulation and that a direct analogue of the second law for thermodynamic entropy production is found by considering information loss in stochastic processes. The information loss identifies a novel contribution from the instantaneous information entropy that ensures non-negative loss.


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