4F10.25 - Maxwell's Demon

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Maxwell's Demon
Area of Study:
Heat & Fluids
Computer programs and on-line applets.

There are many programs, applets, apps, and screen savers that will simulate a Maxwell's Demon situation.  Choose the appropriate program or applet for your presentation.

The vortex tube is a commercial model designed for machinist type work.  With the air pressure we have available in our Lecture Rooms a 50 degree C temperature difference is easily achievable. 

The Jack-in-the-Box can be used as a humorous model to explain Maxwell's demon.

  • Paul Hewitt, "Answer to September Figuring Physics Question", TPT, Vol. 53, #7, Oct. 2015, p. 442.
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part V", TPT, Vol. 50, #5, May 2012, p. 274. 
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part IV", TPT, Vol. 50, #4, Apr. 2012, p. 215. 
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part III", TPT, Vol. 50, #3, Mar. 2012, p. 170.
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part II", TPT, Vol. 50, #2, Feb. 2012, p. 87.
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part I", TPT, Vol. 50, #1, Jan. 2012, p. 28.
  • James H. Larson, "Maxwell's Demon", TPT, Vol. 13, #8, Nov. 1975, p. 503.
  • David C. Schoepf, "A Statistical Development of Entropy for the Introductory Physics Course", AJP, Vol. 70, #2, Feb. 2002, p. 128.
  • Harvey S. Leff and Andrew F. Rex, "Resource Letter MD-1: Maxwell's Demon", AJP, Vol. 58, #3, Mar. 1990, p. 201.
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Maxwell's Demon, Power, and Time", AJP, Vol. 58, #2, Feb. 1990, p. 135.
  • A. F. Rax, "The Operation of Maxwell's Demon in a Low Entropy System", AJP, Vol. 55, #4, Apr. 1987, p. 359.
  • Harvey S. Leff, "Available Work from a Finite Source and Sink: How Effective is a Maxwell's Demon?", AJP, Vol. 55, #8, Aug. 1987, p. 701.
  • Katie Robertson, "The Demons Haunting Thermodynamics", Physics Today, Vol. 74, #11, Nov. 2021, p. 44.
  • Eric Lutz and Sergio Ciliberto, "Information: From Maxwell's Demon to Landuaer's Eraser", Physics Today, Vol. 68, #9, Sep. 2015, p. 30.
  • Bruce Sherwood, "Modeling Maxwell's Demon", Physics Today, Vol. 68, #3, Mar. 2015, p. 9.
  • Zhiyue Lu, Dibyendu Mandal, Christopher Jarzynski, "Engineering Maxwell's Demon", Physics Today, Vol. 67, #8, Aug. 2014, p. 60.
  • Carson I. A. Ritchie, "The Jack-in-the-Box", Making Scientific Toys, p. 167.
  • Borislaw Bilash II and David Maiullo, "Entropy Card Trick", A Demo a Day: A Year of Physics Demonstrations, p. 236.
  • Larry Niven, "Unfinished Story", Playgrounds of the Mind, ISBN: 0-812-51695-8, p. 449.
  • W. Bolton, "The Distribution of Energy in a 'Gas' in Thermal Equilibrium", Book I - Properties of Materials, Physics Experiments and Projects, 1968, p. 32 - 33.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.