Finite-time quantum Stirling heat engine

S. Hamedani Raja*, S. Maniscalco, G. S. Paraoanu, J. P. Pekola, N. Lo Gullo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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We study the thermodynamic performance of a finite-time non-regenerative quantum Stirling-like cycle used as a heat engine. We consider specifically the case in which the working substance (WS) is a two-level system (TLS). The Stirling cycle is made of two isochoric transformations separated by a compression and an expansion stroke during which the WS is in contact with a thermal reservoir. To describe these two strokes we derive a non-Markovian master equation which allows to study the real-time dynamics of a driven open quantum system with arbitrary fast driving. Following the real-time dynamics of the WS using this master equation, the endpoints of the isotherms can deviate from the equilibrium thermal states. The role of this deviation in the performance of the heat engine is addressed. We found that the finite-time dynamics and thermodynamics of the cycle depend non-trivially on the different time scales at play. In particular, driving the WS at a time scale comparable to the resonance time of the bath enhances the performance of the cycle and allows for an efficiency higher than the efficiency of the quasistatic cycle, but still below the Carnot bound. However, by adding thermalization of the WS with the baths at the end of compression/expansion processes one recovers the conventional scenario in which efficiency decreases by speeding up the processes. In addition, the performance of the cycle is dependent on the compression/expansion speeds asymmetrically, which suggests new freedom in optimizing quantum heat engines. The maximum output power and the maximum efficiency are obtained almost simultaneously when the real-time endpoints of the compression/expansion processes are considered instead of the equilibrium thermal endpoint states. However, the net extractable work always declines by speeding up the drive.

Original languageEnglish
Article number033034
Number of pages17
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • quantum thermodynamics
  • finite-time quantum heat engines
  • Stirling cycle


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