Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physicists build engine consisting of one atom

15.04.2016

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).


Part of the laser system used to alternately heat and cool the atom

photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU


View of the vacuum chamber containing the atom trap (center)

photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU

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.

Publication:
Johannes Roßnagel et al.
A single-atom heat engine
Science, 15 April 2016
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6320

Images:
http://www.uni-mainz.de/bilder_presse/08_physik_quantum_ein_atom_motor_01.jpg
View of the vacuum chamber containing the atom trap (center)
photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU

http://www.uni-mainz.de/bilder_presse/08_physik_quantum_ein_atom_motor_02.jpg
Part of the laser system used to alternately heat and cool the atom
photo/©: AG Quantum, JGU

http://www.uni-mainz.de/bilder_presse/08_physik_quantum_ein_atom_motor_03.jpg
(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

Further information:
Johannes Roßnagel
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
e-mail: j.rossnagel@uni-mainz.de
http://www.quantenbit.physik.uni-mainz.de/quantum-thermodynamics/

Professor Dr. Kilian Singer
Experimental Physics I / Light-Matter Interaction
Institute of Physics
University of Kassel
Heinrich-Plett-Straße 40
34132 Kassel, GERMANY
phone +49 561 804-4235
fax +49 561 804-4518
e-mail: ks@uni-kassel.de
https://www.uni-kassel.de/fb10/en/institutes/physics/research-groups/light-matte...

Weitere Informationen:

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

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors
20.07.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information
19.07.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>