Experimental techniques for manipulating small fluctuating systems, such as qubits, are now mature and a great effort for developing quantum technologies is in place. These quantum devices are systems that evolve, fluctuate and couple to each other and to the environment. As larger quantum circuits are pushed forward, studying the thermodynamics of small systems becomes crucial. With an experimentally grounded understanding of thermodynamics at the nanoscale, it will be possible to refine future quantum devices through their fully informed design. There is also the possibility of unique behaviours that would open the way for new technologies, such as new refrigeration and sensing techniques, as well as innovative means of storing energy and powering engines.
To constitute the simplest and most paradigmatic thermodynamic system, we require a system coupled to a heat bath and a battery. In the proposed platform, the system is a two-level quantum system coupled to a nanomechanical resonator, a vibrating carbon nanotube. The resonator stores and provides mechanical work, playing the role of a battery. A cavity will give access to time-resolved measurements of the “battery” and, therefore, will enable direct measurements of the work exchanges in a nanoscale device.
The description above outlines a possible new research project being offered to prospective new postgraduate students.