Minimum Energetic Cost to Maintain a Target Nonequilibrium State


In the absence of external driving, a system exposed to thermal fluctuations will relax to equilibrium. However, the constant input of work makes it possible to counteract this relaxation, and maintain the system in a nonequilibrium steady state. In this Article, we use the stochastic thermodynamics of Markov jump processes to compute the minimum rate at which energy must be supplied and dissipated to maintain an arbitrary nonequilibrium distribution in a given energy landscape. This lower bound depends on two factors: the undriven probability current in the equilibrium state, and the distance from thermal equilibrium of the target distribution. By showing the consequences of this result in a few simple examples, we suggest general implications for the required energetic costs of macromolecular repair and cytosolic protein localization.

Physical Review E