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Jan 7, 2021

Quantum Nanodevice Can Be Both a Heat Engine and Refrigerator at the Same Time

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum physics

A multitasking nanomachine that can act as a heat engine and a refrigerator at the same time has been created by RIKEN engineers. The device is one of the first to test how quantum effects, which govern the behavior of particles on the smallest scale, might one day be exploited to enhance the performance of nanotechnologies.

Conventional heat engines and refrigerators work by connecting two pools of fluid. Compressing one pool causes its fluid to heat up, while rapidly expanding the other pool cools its fluid. If these operations are done in a periodic cycle, the pools will exchange energy and the system can be used as either a heat engine or a fridge.

It would be impossible to set up a macroscale machine that does both tasks simultaneously—nor would engineers want to, says Keiji Ono of the RIKEN Advanced Device Laboratory. “Combining a traditional heat engine with a refrigerator would make it a completely useless machine,” he says. “It wouldn’t know what to do.”

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