What is quantum thermodynamics?

With the rise of quantum technologies and the ability to control single atoms, ions and molecules, thermodynamics faces new challenges. What new thermodynamic effects can be observed in the quantum microscopic realm? Can quantum heat machines drastically outperform classical heat machines? Are there additional scale-dependent thermodynamic laws that become important only in small systems? What are the possibilities entailed in microscopic thermal control protocols? How will the next generation of microscopic heat machines look like? These fascinating questions are at the core of my research.

In the very near future, experimental capabilities will exceed our numerical capabilities when it comes to full quantum evolution followed by precise measurement of very fine-detail features of the system. Hence, excluding a few analytically solvable examples, we will not know what to expect in a given experiment. It will even be difficult to discern new physical effects from artifacts that originate in the experimental realization. Quantum thermodynamics may offer some predictions that will help us deal with these challenging scenarios that await us in the near future. 

 This multidisciplinary field uses tools from open quantum systems, quantum information, atomic physics, and mathematics. Experimentally, the relevant systems include superconducting circuits, NV centers in diamonds, ion traps, NMR, molecular and thermoelectric junctions, quantum dots, molecular machines and more.

The quest for quantum technologies (e.g., quantum clocks, quantum memories, and quantum logic gates) has produced truly remarkable experimental capabilities. Some of these technologies may never be good enough for building a practical scalable quantum computer, but they are already sufficient for doing fundamental microscopic thermodynamics experiments (both quantum and stochastic). Thus, with the growing theoretical interest in quantum thermodynamics more and more labs with quantum technologies turn some of their resources to quantum thermodynamics.

See the top right figure and the research highlights page for my personal research direction in this field.