Second Law based definition of passivity/activity of devices Academic Article uri icon


  • 2017 Elsevier B.V. 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 JohnsonNyquist 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.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Sundqvist, K. M., Ferry, D. K., & Kish, L. B.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Sundqvist, Kyle M||Ferry, David K||Kish, Laszlo B

publication date

  • October 2017