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Ultracold single-atom quantum engines

   School of Physics and Astronomy

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  Dr G Barontini  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The technological progress is pushing towards the realization of smaller scale devices and, at the ultimate level, machines will be built only with one or a few atoms. On this scale classical thermodynamics completely fails and quantum effects become relevant. New technological opportunities arise from the combination of quantum dynamics and thermodynamics: the efficiency of thermodynamic machines, their energy consumption, and the effectiveness of the transformation that they should implement can be boosted by a quantum approach. Despite such promises, the full-fledged technological exploitation of thermodynamics in the quantum regime requires substantial efforts. Among them are the clear need for experimental demonstrations of quantum thermodynamic transformations and engines.

In this project, you will address such a fundamental necessity by designing, developing and testing prototype engines operating at the single-atom quantum level. You will join a team that is realizing an innovative architecture based on cold atom technology: the working fluid of the engine will be a single atom that is immersed in a heat bath of atoms of a different species, while the piston will be embodied by an optical tweezer. The final goal is to realize the quantum version of the celebrated Carnot, Otto and Diesel engines.

Desirable skills for this project are some experimental ability, in particular in optics, a good understanding of quantum mechanics and atomic physics. Necessary skills are a genuine passion for research and good sense of humour. Please visit our website for more information.

To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in the School, the funding opportunities available for your subject, and guidance on making your application, you can visit our website:

Funding Notes

Funding is awarded by the school on a competitive basis, depending on the strength of the applicant. The funding is only available to EU citizens.

Non-EU Students: If you have the correct qualifications and access to your own funding, either from your home country or your own finances, your application to work on this project will be considered.

You can search for sources of funding at:
For details of the funding available and advice on making your application, please contact:
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