World’s smallest heat engine uses just a single particle
An article in the latest edition of the journal Science describes an innovative form of heat engine that operates using only one single atom. The engine is the result of experiments undertaken by the QUANTUM work group at the Institute of Physics of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in collaboration with theoretical physicists of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU).
Heat engines have played an important role in shaping society ever since the Industrial Revolution. As in the case of motor vehicle engines, they transform thermal energy into mechanical force, and our modern lifestyle would be impossible without them. At the same time, progress in miniaturization is resulting in the creation of ever smaller devices.
A team of researchers led by Professor Kilian Singer, head of the project at Mainz University and now Professor at the University of Kassel, used a Paul trap to capture a single electrically charged calcium atom. This atom can be heated with the help of electrically-generated noise and cooled by using a laser beam. As a result, the atom is subjected to a thermodynamic cycle. This means that the particle moves back and forth within the trap, thus replicating the stroke of a typical engine. The atom not only acts in the same way as an engine but also stores the energy.
The researchers performed extensive tests to determine the thermodynamic behavior of their engine. They state in their publication that their single particle engine can generate power of 10-22 watts and operates at 0.3 percent efficiency. If the power of the single atom engine was scaled up from the tiny mass of an atom, its output would be equivalent to that of a car engine. “By reversing the cycle, we could even use the device as a single atom refrigerator and employ it to cool nano systems coupled to it,” explained Johannes Roßnagel, first author of the study.
However, the principal objective of this research is that the creation of a nano-engine of this kind provides insight into thermodynamics at the single-particle level, which is currently a very hot topic in research. Plans are afoot to further lower the operating temperature of the engine in order to investigate thermodynamic quantum effects. In theory, it is assumed that the power of a heat engine can be increased by linking it to a quantum heat bath, thus providing a wealth of possibilities that can be used to move beyond the standard accepted boundaries of classical thermodynamics and construct new types of engines.
The project is part of the "Single ion heat engine" project funded through a research grant of the German Research Foundation and received further funding within the "Atomic nano assembler" project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.
Johannes Roßnagel et al.
A single-atom heat engine
Science, 15 April 2016
View of the vacuum chamber containing the atom trap (center)
photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU
Part of the laser system used to alternately heat and cool the atom
photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU
(fltr) Professor Kilian Singer (project head), PhD student Johannes Roßnagel, and Professor Ferdinand Schmidt-Kaler (head of the QUANTUM group) in front of the experimental equipment used to create the heat engine in the laboratory at Mainz University
photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU
Quantum, Atomic, and Neutron Physics (QUANTUM)
Institute of Physics
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU)
55099 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 39-23671
fax +49 6131 39-23428
Professor Dr. Kilian Singer
Experimental Physics I / Light-Matter Interaction
Institute of Physics
University of Kassel
34132 Kassel, GERMANY
phone +49 561 804-4235
fax +49 561 804-4518
http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/20212_ENG_HTML.php - press release ;
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6283/325 – Article in Science ;
http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/17045_ENG_HTML.php – press release "Physicists at Mainz University build plot prototype of a single ion heat engine", Feb. 3, 2014 ;
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/10/scientists-build-heat-engine-single-atom –Science article "Scientists build heat engine from a single atom", Oct. 21, 2015
Petra Giegerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy