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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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).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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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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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.
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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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