A recent paper by IQIM alum Nicole Yunger Halpern, Graduate Student Christopher David White, Burke Institute Alum Sarang Gopalakishnan and Gil Refael explores the possibility of applying quantum many-body localization to energy-processing technologies, such as an engine. Quantum engine based on many-body localization, Phys. Rev. B 99, 024203 – Published 22 January 2019
Many-particle quantum phenomena enhance engine
Imagine opening a bottle of perfume and finding that the scent particles hover near the opening, rather than spreading across the room. We would say that the scent particles fail to thermalize. That scent would behave like the particles in certain quantum systems, called many-body localized systems. Particles many-body localize if they repel each other while jiggling around in a rough landscape. Example systems include ultracold atoms in a terrain formed by lasers. Many-body localization has attracted much theoretical and experimental attention over the past few years. But can this quantum lack of thermalization enhance technology?
We answer affirmatively: Resistance to thermalization serves as a resource in energy-processing tasks, such as powering cars. We propose an engine, analogous to a car engine, formed from a many-body-localized quantum system. The engine absorbs and emits heat to perform work, energy of the type that powers cars. Many-body localization enables the engine to have any size from about ten particles to macroscopically many and enhances the engine’s reliability. The quantum engine operates at a greater power than another small engine, a bacterium’s flagellar rotor, according to estimates. This work opens quantum many-body localization to applications in energy-processing technologies.
PRB Editors’ Suggestion: Quantum engine based on many-body localization
APS Physics Focus: Disordered systems exhibiting many-body localization have unique thermal properties that could be utilized in a quantum engine.
The team’s calculations show that the MBL engine has about the same energy efficiency—but a lower power density—than the conventional Otto cycle. When compared to other quantum engines, the MBL engine is more robust against perturbations. In addition to mechanical work, MBL systems might also be able to perform other thermodynamic tasks such as refrigeration.