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PhD scholarship: Quantum many-body thermal machines (theory)

position expired
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom Australia AU

A fully-funded PhD scholarship is available for a project on "Quantum many-body thermal machines.”  The particular focus is on how many body physics can enhance the performance of a quantum engine.  Funding is available for the successful candidate to spend 12 months in Exeter, UK working on the project, with the rest of the time in Brisbane, Australia.  The student will be a member of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Engineered Quantum Systems:

Matthew Davis and Lewis Williamson, University of Queensland.
Janet Anders, University of Exeter.

Please get in touch with Matthew Davis via email for further details:

Aim of this project

This project aims to develops proposals to realise quantum thermal machines in ultracold atom systems. The unprecedented control of ultracold atoms at a quantum level make them an ideal testbed to study quantum thermal machines [1]. The project will explore experimental proposals in ultracold atoms for utilising coherence and entanglement to gain a quantum advantage in the generation of work.  Particular attention will be given to the role of thermodynamics in quantum computing and possibilities to circumvent or exploit coupling to an environment at the quantum level.

Background and Motivation

At the turn of the millennium, renowned Australian physicist Gerard J. Milburn considered that "We are currently in the midst of a second quantum revolution" [2]. He was referring to the growing research into utilising coherent quantum effects in new technologies. Indeed, the last 20 years has seen an explosion of research into quantum technologies, with companies such as IBM, Google and Microsoft opening their own quantum research divisions.  Governments such as the United Kingdom, USA, China, and Australia have launched quantum technology funding strategies covering both academia and defence.

Quantum technologies rely on two fundamental quantum features: coherence (the ability for a quantum system to be in multiple states at once) and entanglement (the exponential growth of information required to describe - and available as a resource - when quantum systems are combined). Proposals to harness these effects for information processing in computing and cryptography show that it is possible to exponentially improve on current classical technology [3]. It is safe to say that the digital world is at the brink of a major disruption due to quantum technologies.

Quantum thermal machines are an emerging branch of quantum technology that utilise quantum effects to convert heat into useful work. From the perspective of information theory, this is equivalent to transforming disordered information from a reservoir into ordered information [4], and hence is intimately linked to quantum information theory and quantum computing. Quantum thermal machines could offer quantum advantages in work extraction, such as going beyond the Carnot limit [5] and extracting work from a single heat bath [6]. Furthermore, a major obstacle to quantum computing is that they thermalize with the environment, introducing errors into the computation. A greater understanding of quantum thermal machines offers a possibility to circumvent, or even utilise, interactions with an environment in quantum computers.

[1]        C. Bennet and D. DiVincenzo, Quantum information and computation, Nature 404, 247 (2000).
[2]        J. P. Dowling and G. J. Milburn, Quantum technology: the second quantum revolution, Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A 361, 1655 (2003).
[3]        V. Vedral, The role of relative entropy in quantum information theory, Rev. Mod. Phys. 74, 197 (2002).
[4]        J. Robnagel et al. Nanoscale heat engine beyond the Carnot limit, Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 030602 (2014).
[5]        M. Scully et al. Extracting work from a single heat bath via vanishing quantum coherence, Science 299, 862 (2003).
[6]        M. Ueda, Quantum equilibriation, thermalization and prethermalization in ultracold atoms, Nat. Rev. Phys. 2, 669 (2020).