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Quantum many-body thermal machines (Funded by the QUEX Institute)

   The Graduate School

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  Prof Matthew Davis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Brisbane Australia Computer Science Theoretical Physics

About the Project

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD program provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants. The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Eight generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, four offered by the University of Exeter and four by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Project Description

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.


In addition to the above criteria, this scholarship is open to Australian citizens, permanent residents and International students who are currently in Australia at the time of application. International applicants outside of Australia are able to apply but must onshore at The University of Queensland at the time of their commencement, or if Australia's borders are still closed an Exeter commencement may be considered.

Find out more about the QUEX Joint PhD Scholarship at our website.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 24 May 2021 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 12 July 2021.

Funding Notes

This scholarship includes a living stipend of AUD $28,597 (2021) tax free, indexed annually, tuition fees and Overseas Student Health Cover (where applicable). A travel grant of AUD $8,500 per annum, and a training grant of AUD $3,000 are also available over the program.


[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).
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