La Sapienza - Università di Roma

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Quantum Motors of the Future

What do a locomotive, a cheetah and Usain Bolt have in common? All three transform calories into movement or - as physicists refer to it - work.

Understanding the limits for the conversion of thermal energy into work through thermodynamics is what has made the implementation of more efficient engines possible. When we deal with the microscopic world and quantum behaviour, however, the rules change. Understanding how the laws of quantum mechanics change thermodynamics is one of the largest research efforts of recent times.

An experiment conducted in the Sapienza quantum optics laboratories, in collaboration with Roma Tre University and Queen's University of Belfast, has revealed that if it were possible to entangle two nano-engines together (a type of relationship that exists only for quantum particles and that makes two separate objects in space co-dependent), this would create more work than the operation of two independent motors.

Researchers trained photons to simulate the action of a nano-engine and understood that it is possible to distinguish whether the engines are "entangled" - or not - based on how much work they produce.

This is a first significant step towards the use of quantum technologies not only to inform, but also to fully develop future nanoscale machines.

"Experimental extractable work-based multipartite separability criteria" by Mario A. Ciampini, Luca Mancino, Adeline Orieux, Caterina Vigliar, Paolo Mataloni, Mauro Paternostro & Marco Barbieri DOI: 10.1038 / s41534-017-0011-9