Quantum heat engines and refrigerators: Continuous devices

Ronnie Kosloff, Amikam Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Quantum thermodynamics supplies a consistent description of quantum heat engines and refrigerators up to a single few-level system coupled to the environment. Once the environment is split into three (a hot, cold, and work reservoir), a heat engine can operate. The device converts the positive gain into power, with the gain obtained from population inversion between the components of the device. Reversing the operation transforms the device into a quantum refrigerator. The quantum tricycle, a device connected by three external leads to three heat reservoirs, is used as a template for engines and refrigerators. The equation of motion for the heat currents and power can be derived from first principles. Only a global description of the coupling of the device to the reservoirs is consistent with the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Optimization of the devices leads to a balanced set of parameters in which the couplings to the three reservoirs are of the same order and the external driving field is in resonance. When analyzing refrigerators, one needs to devote special attention to a dynamical version of the third law of thermodynamics. Bounds on the rate of cooling when Tc→0 are obtained by optimizing the cooling current. All refrigerators as Tc→0 show universal behavior. The dynamical version of the third law imposes restrictions on the scaling as Tc→0 of the relaxation rate 'gamma'c and heat capacity cV of the cold bath.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-393
Number of pages29
JournalAnnual Review of Physical Chemistry
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • absolute zero temperature
  • laser cooling
  • quantum amplifier
  • quantum thermodynamics
  • quantum tricycle


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