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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2013 Jan;87(1):012140. Epub 2013 Jan 25.

Minimal universal quantum heat machine.

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Weizmann Institute of Science, 76100 Rehovot, Israel.


In traditional thermodynamics the Carnot cycle yields the ideal performance bound of heat engines and refrigerators. We propose and analyze a minimal model of a heat machine that can play a similar role in quantum regimes. The minimal model consists of a single two-level system with periodically modulated energy splitting that is permanently, weakly, coupled to two spectrally separated heat baths at different temperatures. The equation of motion allows us to compute the stationary power and heat currents in the machine consistent with the second law of thermodynamics. This dual-purpose machine can act as either an engine or a refrigerator (heat pump) depending on the modulation rate. In both modes of operation, the maximal Carnot efficiency is reached at zero power. We study the conditions for finite-time optimal performance for several variants of the model. Possible realizations of the model are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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