Second Law based definition of passivity/activity of devices

Kyle M. Sundqvist, David K. Ferry, Laszlo B. Kish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Recently, our efforts to clarify the old question, if a memristor is a passive or active device [1], triggered debates between engineers, who have had advanced definitions of passivity/activity of devices, and physicists with significantly different views about this seemingly simple question. This debate triggered our efforts to test the well-known engineering concepts about passivity/activity in a deeper way, challenging them by statistical physics. It is shown that the advanced engineering definition of passivity/activity of devices is self-contradictory when a thermodynamical system executing Johnson–Nyquist noise is present. A new, statistical physical, self-consistent definition based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics is introduced. It is also shown that, in a system with uniform temperature distribution, any rectifier circuitry that can rectify thermal noise must contain an active circuit element, according to both the engineering and statistical physical definitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3364-3368
Number of pages5
JournalPhysics Letters, Section A: General, Atomic and Solid State Physics
Issue number39
StatePublished - Oct 17 2017


  • Activity
  • Passivity
  • Second Law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Second Law based definition of passivity/activity of devices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this