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Quantum heat engines and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Prof Tien Kieu

Centre for Atom Optics and Ultrafast Spectroscopy, Swinburne University of Technology

3.30pm, Friday 19 September 2003, AR103 Seminar Room, Graduate Research Centre

We study a new class of heat engines which is based entirely on the principles of quantum mechanics. The engines involve two-level systems and quantum adiabatic processes. They offer us new insights into and understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and its limitations through the engines' apparent ability to "violate" this Law. As the principles of quantum mechanics were born out of the black-body radiation problem in Thermodynamics, this connection of quantum heat engines back to the Second Law of Thermodynamics thus completes the circle. We also comment on the connection of these quantum engines to Maxwell's daemon and Szilard's engine. But excitingly, being more realistic than Maxwell's daemon and Szilard's one-atom gas engine, our machines may be realised with mesoscopic and/or macroscopic quantum systems such as Bose-Einstein condensates and the likes.

Back to 2003 programme