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A photonic quantum engine driven by superradiance

Abstract

Performance of nano- and microscale heat engines can be improved with the help of quantum-mechanical phenomena. Recently, heat reservoirs with quantum coherence have been proposed to enhance engine performance beyond the Carnot limit even with a single reservoir. However, no physical realizations have been achieved so far. Here we report the first proof-of-principle experimental demonstration of a photonic quantum engine driven by superradiance employing a single heat reservoir composed of atoms and photonic vacuum. Reservoir atoms prepared in a quantum coherent superposition state underwent superradiance as they traversed the cavity. This led to about 40-fold increase in the effective engine temperature, resulting in near-unity engine efficiency. Moreover, the observed engine output power grew quadratically with respect to the atomic injection rate. Our work can be utilized in quantum-mechanical heat transfer as well as in boosting engine powers, opening a pathway to the development of photomechanical devices that run on quantum coherence embedded in heat baths.

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Fig. 1: Engine cycle and the pressure–volume diagram of the superradiant quantum engine.
Fig. 2: Second-order correlation and enhanced engine power by superradiance.
Fig. 3: Effective engine temperature and observed engine efficiency.

Data availability

Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code that supports the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

K.A. acknowledges financial support from the Korea Research Foundation (grant no. 2020R1A2C3009299) and the Ministry of Science and ICT of Korea under ITRC program (grand no. IITP-2021-2018-0-01402).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Jinuk Kim and K.A. conceived the experiment. Jinuk Kim performed the experiment with help from S.O. and analysed the data and carried out the theoretical investigations. K.A. supervised the overall experimental and theoretical works. Jinuk Kim and K.A. wrote the manuscript. All the authors participated in the analyses and discussions.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kyungwon An.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Photonics thanks Marlan Scully and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 The pressure-volume diagram.

The pressure-volume diagram of the superradiant quantum engine. The radiation pressure is represented by the photon number. The x axis is the cavity resonance frequency, which is inversely proportional to the cavity mode volume.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–5 and Notes 1–6.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Statistical source data for Fig. 1

Source Data Fig. 2

Statistical source data for Fig. 2

Source Data Fig. 3

Statistical source data for Fig. 3

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Kim, J., Oh, Sh., Yang, D. et al. A photonic quantum engine driven by superradiance. Nat. Photon. 16, 707–711 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-022-01039-2

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