Stochastic Thermodynamics: Experiment and Theory

Workshop Report

Stochastic thermodynamics was initiated in the late 90s as a framework to describe the fluctuating behaviour of thermodynamics fluxes that occur at the mesoscale.  While much of the initial discussion was theoretical or focused on thought experiments (e.g. Maxwell’s demons), impressive technological advances in the last two decades have enabled tests of many of the fundamental principles.

The main focus of this workshop, then, was to bring together representatives from a number of experimental groups, combined with leading theoreticians in the field.  The goal was to both summarize the state of the art and to chart further progress.

The Stochastic Thermodynamics: Experiment and Theory (STET) workshop was held over five days and was attended by 74 researchers, divided among senior and junior academics, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students.  The participants were drawn from 22 countries.  There were nearly twice as many applications as could be accommodated, indicating the strong interest in the community in these topics.  The experimentalists represented worked on a wide range of systems, ranging from colloidal model systems to low-temperature quantum dots to biological motors to gravitational-wave detectors.  The theorists presented a range of current views, with much discussion of recent hot topics in nonequilibrium thermodynamics such as: thermodynamic uncertainty relations; the role of phase transitions in various aspects; universal fluctuations of work and entropy production; thermodynamics with strong coupling; and optimization protocols at the nanoscale.  The number of invited 32 and contributed 7 talks were kept relatively low to allow ample time for discussions, an aspect of the workshop that was very well received.  Conversely, a relatively large number of posters (40) were explored in two evening poster sessions that provoked lively discussion.  

The list of invited speakers included some of the most relevant researchers in the field of stochastic thermodynamics, both from theoretical and experimental communities. The scientific newcomers attending the workshop participated actively in discussions with leading experts of the field and had the opportunity to present their most recent work in the two evening poster sessions.

The workshop provided a broad overview of the state-of-the-art of the different research lines developed within the field of stochastic thermodynamics, both experimental and theoretical. 
The results presented at the workshop may open new avenues in the research areas of nonequilibrium physics of strongly-coupled systems, fluctuations of gravitational-wave detectors, statistical mechanics approaches to cosmology and thermodynamics of biological systems. Furthermore, the discussions between experimentalists and theorists seem to have launched a number of new collaborations, many of them international.

We also organized a special edition of Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiments (JStat), that accepts contributions from participants to the workshop, to be published in early 2019. We expect the special edition to gather the fruits of these new interactions and collaborations and we already received very positive feedback about it from the participants.